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Category Archives: Dirty side of Politics


Heather Cox RichardsonOct 17
 
 

In an interview this morning with CNN’s Dana Bash, Arizona Republican nominee for governor Kari Lake refused to say that she would accept the results of the upcoming election– unless she wins. Former president Trump said the same in 2020, and now more than half of the Republican nominees in the midterm elections have refused to say that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election because, they allege, there was voter fraud. This position is an astonishing rejection of the whole premise on which this nation was founded: that voters have the right to choose their leaders.

That right was established in the Declaration of Independence separating the 13 British colonies on the North American continent from allegiance to King George III. That Declaration rejected the idea of social hierarchies in which some men were better than others and should rule their inferiors. Instead, it set out a new principle of government, establishing that “all men are created equal” and that governments derive “their just power from the consent of the governed.”

Republicans’ rejection of the idea that voters have the right to choose their leaders is not a new phenomenon. It is part and parcel of Republican governance since the 1980s, when it became clear to Republican leaders that their “supply-side economics,” a program designed to put more money into the hands of those at the top of the economy, was not actually popular with voters, who recognized that cutting taxes and services did not, in fact, result in more tax revenue and rising standards of living. They threatened to throw the Republicans out of office and put back in place the Democrats’ policies of using the government to build the economy from the bottom up.

So, to protect President Ronald Reagan’s second round of tax cuts in 1986, Republicans began to talk of cutting down Democratic voting through a “ballot integrity” initiative, estimating that their plans could “eliminate at least 60–80,000 folks from the rolls” in Louisiana. “If it’s a close race…, this could keep the Black vote down considerably,” a regional director of the Republican National Committee wrote.

When Democrats countered by expanding voting through the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, more commonly known as the Motor Voter Act, a New York Times writer said Republicans saw the law “as special efforts to enroll core Democratic constituencies in welfare and jobless-benefits offices.” While Democrats thought it was important to enfranchise “poor people…people who can’t afford cars, people who can’t afford nice houses,” Republicans, led by then–House minority whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia, predicted “a wave of fraudulent voting by illegal immigrants.”

From there it was a short step to insisting that Republicans lost elections not because their ideas were unpopular, but because Democrats cheated. In 1994, losing candidates charged, without evidence, that Democrats won elections with “voter fraud.” In California, for example, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s opponent, who had spent $28 million of his own money on the race but lost by about 160,000 votes, said on “Larry King Live” that “frankly, the fraud is overwhelming” and that once he found evidence, he would share it to demand “a new election.” That evidence never materialized, but in February 1995 the losing candidate finally made a statement saying he would stop litigating despite “massive deficiencies in the California election system,” in the interest of “a thorough bipartisan investigation and solutions to those problems.”

In 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched yearlong investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, with Gingrich, by then House speaker, telling reporters: ‘“We now have proof of a sufficient number of noncitizens voting that it may well have affected at least one election for Congress,” although the House Oversight Committee said the evidence did not support his allegations.

In the Senate, after a 10-month investigation, the Republican-dominated Rules Committee voted 16 to 0 to dismiss accusations of voter fraud in the election of Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu that cost her $500,000 in legal fees and the committee $250,000. Her opponent, whose supporters wore small socks on their lapels with the words “Don’t Get Cold Feet. Sock It To Voter Fraud,” still refused to concede, saying that “the Senate has become so partisan it has become difficult to get to the truth.”

There was nothing to the cases, but keeping them in front of the media for a year helped to convince Americans that voter fraud was a serious issue and that Democrats were winning elections thanks to illegal, usually immigrant, voters. Amplified by the new talk radio hosts and, by the mid-1990s, the Fox News Channel, Republicans increasingly argued that Democrats were owned by “special interests” who were corrupting the system, pushing what they called “socialism”—that is, legislation that provided a basic social safety net and regulated business—on “real” Americans who, they insisted, wanted rugged individualism. If Democrats really were un-American, it only made sense to keep such dangerous voters from the polls.

In 1998, the Florida legislature passed a law to “maintain” the state’s voter lists, using a private company to purge the voter files of names believed to belong to convicted felons, dead people, duplicates, and so on. The law placed the burden of staying on the voter lists on individuals, who had to justify their right to be on them. The law purged up to 100,000 legitimate Florida voters, most of them Black voters presumed to vote Democratic, before the 2000 election, in which Republican candidate George W. Bush won the state by 537 votes, giving him the Electoral College although he lost the popular vote.

Voting restrictions had begun, but they really took off after the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring preclearance from the federal government before states with a history of racial discrimination changed their election laws. Now, less than a decade later, Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been open about suppressing Democratic votes, easing voting restrictions for three reliably Republican counties devastated by Hurricane Ian but refusing to adjust the restrictions in hard-hit, Democratic-leaning Orange County.

Open attacks on Democrats in the lead-up to this year’s midterms justify that voter suppression. Last week, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) suggested that Black Americans are criminals who “want to take over what you got,” and Republican candidates are running ads showing mug shots of Black men. Today, Trump chided American Jews for not sufficiently appreciating him; he warned them to “get their act together…[b]efore it’s too late.” Republican lawmakers have left those racist and antisemitic statements unchallenged.

Those attacks also justify ignoring Democratic election victories, for if Democratic voters are undermining the country, it only makes sense that their choices should be ignored. This argument was exactly how reactionary white Democrats justified the 1898 coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, when they overthrew a legitimately elected government of white Populists and Black Republicans. Issuing a “White Declaration of Independence,” they claimed “the intelligent citizens of this community owning 95 percent of the property” were taking over because those elected were not fit to run a government. Like the Wilmington plotters, Trump supporters insisted they were defending the nation from a “stolen” election when they attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to cancel the results of the 2020 Democratic victory.

It was not so very long ago that historians taught the Wilmington coup as a shocking anomaly in our democratic system, but now, 124 years after it happened, it is current again. Modern-day Republicans appear to reject not only the idea they could lose an election fairly, but also the fundamental principle, established in the Declaration of Independence, that all Americans have a right to consent to their government.

Notes:

Aaron Rupar @atrupar

Kari Lake refuses to commit to accepting the result of the Arizona gubernatorial election

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1:34 PM ∙ Oct 16, 20225,196Likes1,294Retweets

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/14/ron-desantis-florida-hurricane-ian-voting-rules

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/15/racist-appeals-heat-up- final-weeks-before-midterms/

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Heather Cox RichardsonOct 16
 
 
The highlighted area shows the deliberate attempt of the former guy to sabotage America. MA

At Thursday’s meeting of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, as Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) showed that former president Trump both recognized that he had lost the election and intended to leave the White House, he noted that on November 11, just four days after Democrat Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the 2020 election, Trump had abruptly ordered U.S. troops to leave Somalia and Afghanistan by January 15. 

Indeed, according to an Axios investigation by Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu last May, two days before that order, on November 9, 2020, John McEntee, Trump’s hand-picked director of the Presidential Personnel Office, told retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor that Trump wanted him to “Get us out of Afghanistan. Get us out of Iraq and Syria. Complete the withdrawal from Germany. Get us out of Africa.” When Macgregor, who was brought on to the administration on November 11, said he didn’t think that was possible, McEntee told him to “do as much as you can.” 

Kinzinger’s point was that Trump clearly knew he was leaving office because he was deliberately trying to create chaos for his successor. When he abruptly pulled the U.S. out of northern Syria in October 2019, he abandoned our Kurdish allies, forcing more than 160,000 Syrians from their homes and making them victims of extraordinary violence. The Pentagon considered Trump’s November 11 instructions “a rogue order,” since they had not gone through any of the appropriate channels, and disregarded them.

The release of the Biden administration’s annual National Security Strategy (NSS) on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, highlights just how big a catastrophe we dodged. 

Just as Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria left a vacuum for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin, and as Trump’s planned but not executed withdrawal of troops from Germany would have hamstrung the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) so it could not have countered Putin’s Russia, so would the abrupt disengagement of the U.S. around the world have created a giant vacuum for authoritarian countries to fill.

Biden’s National Security Strategy reiterates his belief that we are in a global struggle between democracy and rising autocracy and that the world is at an inflection point that will determine “the security and prosperity of the American people for generations to come.”

The document makes a strong call for American leadership to defend democracy and to reinforce the rules-based international system on which the world has depended since World War II. This system is now under attack as Russia has claimed the right to invade a neighboring country and redraw its boundaries by force, and as authoritarian governments seek to control global trade and power by withholding key resources—like energy—from other nations.  

The NSS promises that the U.S. will work to strengthen democracy around the world “because democratic governance consistently outperforms authoritarianism in protecting human dignity, leads to more prosperous and resilient societies, creates stronger and more reliable economic and security partners for the United States, and encourages a peaceful world order.” It also calls for the domestic development of key resources, especially energy, to reduce the ability of other nations to pressure us. 

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have made rebuilding NATO, reinforcing our traditional partnerships like those with the “Quad”—which, in addition to the U.S., includes Australia, Japan, and India—and advancing our alliances in the Indo-Pacific a top priority. On Thursday, Biden said his staff had calculated that he had spent about 220 hours talking directly with the heads of state at NATO and the European Union, “just holding it together” after Putin counted on NATO splitting up. Biden and Blinken have emphasized security, trade, and technology to knit the world together. 

The NSS notes that “we are creating a latticework of strong, resilient, and mutually reinforcing relationships that prove democracies can deliver for their people and the world.” Unified international support for Ukraine illustrates just how successful they have been. The NSS also emphasizes the importance of working with countries in Latin America to improve conditions in the western hemisphere in general and to weaken corruption, improve security, and strengthen democracy there. It calls for closer relations with African nations and African regional institutions, and it calls for a peaceful Arctic. 

The NSS notes that Iran interferes in the internal affairs of its neighbors and is advancing a nuclear program and that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) is also expanding its illicit nuclear weapons. But above all, the NSS calls out Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as key destabilizers of the international order. It notes that they are increasingly aligned with each other but present very different challenges to the U.S.

China is the only power able to reshape the international order, the NSS states, and is using technology to gain sway over international institutions to advance its authoritarian model, which in the past has provided a rising standard of living in exchange for a loss of freedom. The PRC has been able to use that economic power to pressure other countries to become dependent on it.

The NSS calls for strengthening the U.S. at home to compete with the PRC, working with allies and partners, and competing with the PRC in the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen the autonomy of countries there. (The recent U.S. demonstration of support for Taiwan was part of this demonstration, and it had the effect of prompting the PRC to overreact, demonstrating an instability that weakened ties to regional neighbors.)

And yet the NSS emphasizes that while the U.S. has “profound differences” with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government, those differences are not “between our people.” “Ties of family and friendship continue to connect the American and the Chinese people. We deeply respect their achievements, their history, and their culture. Racism and hate have no place in a nation built by generations of immigrants to fulfill the promise of opportunity for all. And we intend to work together to solve issues that matter most to the people of both countries.”

Turning to Russia, the NSS condemns “its longstanding efforts to destabilize its neighbors using intelligence and cyber capabilities, and its blatant attempts to undermine internal democratic processes in countries across Europe, Central Asia, and around the world,” and notes that “Russia has also interfered brazenly in U.S. politics and worked to sow divisions among the American people.” The U.S. will continue to lead “a united, principled, and resolute response to Russia’s invasion” of Ukraine.

But the last several months have indicated that autocracies have their own problems. The PRC has doubled down on a zero-Covid policy that has hurt its economy and sparked internal protest. Tomorrow, the Communist Party will begin its 20th National Congress (congresses are held every five years). It is expected that President Xi Jinping will win a third term to consolidate his grip on power just as the U.S has unveiled strict controls on selling semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China, restrictions that appear to be an attempt to kneecap Chinese advances in artificial intelligence and military capabilities.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proved disastrous for Putin. As supplies and soldiers have drained into Ukraine, Russia’s control of the lands around it has faltered, while his recent mobilization of the Russian population to fight in Ukraine has created extraordinary unrest at home. Putin is pressing Belarus’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, to join the war, but Lukashenko appears hesitant, likely suspecting that joining the disastrous war will mean his own political end.

For its part, Iran is facing internal protests sparked by the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, known to her family by her Kurdish name Zhina, in the custody of “morality police” for violating the country’s dress code. Saudi Arabia is not necessarily as strong as it has appeared lately, either. When its leaders recently sided with Russia by pushing OPEC+ to cut oil production and thus support gas prices, other OPEC+ countries told the U.S. that the Saudis had pressured them to do so. Saudi Arabia has suddenly offered Ukraine $400 million in humanitarian aid, evidently trying to regain the goodwill of Europe and the U.S., since it imports almost all of its weapons from that bloc.   

“The post-Cold War era is definitively over and a competition is underway between the major powers to shape what comes next,” the NSS says. “No nation is better positioned to succeed in this competition than the United States, as long as we work in common cause with those who share our vision of a world that is free, open, secure, and prosperous. This means that the foundational principles of self-determination, territorial integrity, and political independence must be respected, international institutions must be strengthened, countries must be free to determine their own foreign policy choices, information must be allowed to flow freely, universal human rights must be upheld, and the global economy must operate on a level playing field and provide opportunity for all.”

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/12/politics/joe-biden-nuclear-message-putin-cnntv-analysis/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/14/politics/woodward-costa-book-trump-afghanistan-memo/index.html

https://www.axios.com/2021/05/16/off-the-rails-trump-military-withdraw-afghanistan

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/why-trump-decision-abandon-kurds-syria-disaster-898493/

https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-donald-trump-military-facilities-europe-lloyd-austin-ff57f288a1bb3e5a38e3253ea0b94d80

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/10/14/remarks-by-president-biden-at-a-democratic-congressional-campaign-committee-reception/

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/xi-set-open-party-congress-challenging-time-china-2022-10-14/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/15/xi-china-party-congress/

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/xi-set-open-party-congress-challenging-time-china-2022-10-14/

https://www.wired.com/story/us-chip-sanctions-kneecap-chinas-tech-industry/

https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/14/politics/joe-biden-iran-protests/index.html

https://oec.world/en/profile/bilateral-product/weapons/reporter/sau

https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-aims-hobble-chinas-chip-industry-with-sweeping-new-export-rules-2022-10-07/

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Heather Cox RichardsonOct 13
 
 

Today, a jury in a civil trial in Connecticut determined that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his “InfoWars” network, must pay $965 million to the families of eight of those murdered at Sandy Hook and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting. A previous decision in a similar case left Jones with an order to pay almost $50 million to the parents of one of the other Sandy Hook victims, and a third Sandy Hook damages trial is pending.

Twenty first-graders and six educators died in the 2012 attack, but Jones insisted the massacre was a hoax and the victims’ families actors, all part of a plot to create an excuse for confiscating guns.

Jones’s followers have harassed the families ever since. Jones has admitted his theories were wrong and the massacre happened, but he says that he is not to blame for the actions of his followers and that the harassment was not as bad as the plaintiffs claim.

A judge earlier ruled that Jones is liable for defamation, invasion of privacy, inflicting emotional distress, and violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by lying about the massacre to sell his products on InfoWars. A representative from Free Speech Systems testified that Jones and the company made at least $100 million in the last ten years.

Jones was not at the court today. He was broadcasting, making fun of the proceedings, and begging his followers for money, promising it would not go to pay the damages because he had declared bankruptcy and, in any case, he intended to appeal.

What we are seeing is what happens when the MAGA narrative meets a legal system that requires sworn testimony and recognizes perjury as a crime.

Jones and InfoWars pushed the lies that fueled the rise of today’s Republican extremists, and Jones is a prominent Trump supporter who was part of the events in Washington on January 5 and 6, 2021. Tonight, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) defended him, saying that “all he did was speak words,” and suggesting the case against him was “political persecution.” Like others on the right, Greene suggests this case is about free speech, when in fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects us only from the government silencing us. It does not stop legal responsibility for damage our words cause, for which Jones has been found liable. A jury—not the government—has assigned the $965 million award to those whose lives Jones harmed.

This legal reckoning is a significant blow to Jones’s ability to continue spreading lies.

Meanwhile, the $1.6 billion lawsuit in which Dominion Voting Systems is suing the Fox News Corporation for its lies about Dominion’s voting machines in the 2020 election is moving forward. The FNC is apparently planning to argue that FNC personalities were simply expressing opinions when they said the machines were rigged, much as FNC has argued to defend host Tucker Carlson from lawsuits, saying that he was not reporting facts and that no “reasonable viewer” would take him seriously.

Dominion’s $1.3 billion lawsuit against Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who was a leading figure in pushing the lies that the voting machines were rigged, is also moving forward, although in March she asked a federal judge to dismiss the case against her, saying that “no reasonable person would conclude that [her] statements were truly statements of fact.” On September 28, a federal judge dismissed her countersuit, in which Powell claimed Dominion was suing her “to punish and make an example of her.”

The clash between reality and image was in the news again tonight when Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post reported that a Mar-a-Lago employee has placed Trump directly at the center of the retention of government documents in defiance of a subpoena. The employee told federal agents that Trump himself supervised the moving of boxes of documents, and that the shift happened after Trump’s team received a subpoena to return any documents bearing classified markings that were still at Mar-a-Lago.

Security camera footage backed up the employee’s story.

Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich tried to spin the news by telling Barrett and Dawsey: “The Biden administration has weaponized law enforcement and fabricated a Document Hoax in a desperate attempt to retain political power,” but that narrative is running up against the rush of Trump’s lawyers to get away from this case.

Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, a former commentator on the right-wing One America News Network, signed a letter on June 3 certifying that Trump had returned all the records marked “classified,” “based upon the information that has been provided to me.” But the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago turned up more than 100 more.

Bobb has hired a criminal defense attorney and is cooperating with the Department of Justice. She told investigators that Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran had drafted the letter and told her to sign it; she insisted on the disclaimer. Now Corcoran, too, has an incentive to work with the Department of Justice and to tell the truth, rather than doubling down on a lie.

Trump has ridden a false narrative in the past by managing to delay legal reckonings.

But today, New York federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan denied former president Donald Trump’s attempt to delay his deposition, set for October 19, in the defamation case brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll has sued Trump for defaming her by claiming she lied when she said Trump raped her in the mid-1990s. Trump has appealed to substitute the United States for himself as the defendant in the case, since he was president when he said he had not committed the assault. A previous attempt on the part of Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr to substitute the U.S. for Trump failed, so, the judge pointed out, “this is a second bite at that apple.” Still, Trump wanted to pause the case while that appeal is pending.

“As this Court previously has observed,” Judge Kaplan wrote, “Mr. Trump has litigated this case since it began in 2019 with the effect and probably the purpose of delaying it.” He denied the attempt to stop Trump’s deposition, saying Trump “should not be permitted to run the clock out.”

The judge also pointed out that New York has recently passed the Adult Survivors Act, providing a one-year window for civil lawsuits based on sex crimes that are otherwise outside the statute of limitations, and that Carroll might want to sue Trump for damages under that law.

After Kaplan’s decision, Trump called the U.S. legal system a “broken disgrace,” claimed he had no idea who Carroll is, and called her story “a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years.” But he will have to testify.

Tomorrow, in yet another example of the power of reality, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold another public hearing at 1:00 Eastern time.

Notes:

Zoe Tillman @ZoeTillman

Now: A NY federal judge denied Donald Trump’s bid to delay discovery in writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case — incl. his scheduled deposition — while his appeal is pending. Trump “should not be permitted to run the clock out…” More to come. storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.usco…

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3:53 PM ∙ Oct 12, 2022


2,472Likes638Retweets

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/10/12/alex-jones-sandy-hook-verdict/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/explainer-jurors-weigh-cost-alex-jones-sandy-hook-91149950

Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 @RonFilipkowski

Let’s let all the Alex defenders come out publicly tonight for the whole country to see. Keep them coming.

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8:43 PM ∙ Oct 12, 202228,293Likes4,477Retweets

https://www.businessinsider.com/fox-news-karen-mcdougal-case-tucker-carlson-2020-9

https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/judge-tosses-sidney-powells-counterclaims-dominion-defamation-case-2022-09-28/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/12/maralago-witness-trump-boxes-moved/

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-lawyer-christina-bobb-speaks-federal-investigators-mar-lago-case-rcna51459

Renato Mariotti @renato_mariotti

Christina Bobb spoke to the Feds and told them that another Trump lawyer, Evan Corcoran, was the source of the false info in the certification she made regarding the Mar-a-Lago documents. If true, she is likely right that she has no liability. But now *he* is in the hot seat. https://t.co/o1gKHocuvF

Ken Dilanian @KenDilanianNBC

Exclusive: Trump lawyer Christina Bobb speaks to federal investigators in Mar-a-Lago case via ⁦@MarcACaputo⁩ https://t.co/PC5LssRrAI5:28 PM ∙ Oct 10, 20221,293Likes352Retweets

https://apnews.com/article/new-york-lawsuits-manhattan-donald-trum-lewis-a-kaplan-ce7b11f1f0e3ea1bec35e8f1f1b929d9

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/sidney-powell-s-legal-defensei-reasonable-people-wouldn-t-believe-n1261809

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/11/jan-6-trump-riot-house-probe-next-hearing-to-show-new-material.html

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Heather Cox RichardsonOct 3
 
 

There’s a moment in Representative Adam Schiff’s 2021 book Midnight in Washington that jumps out. The book centers around the first impeachment of former president Trump for withholding congressionally approved funds for Ukraine to fight off Russian incursions. In managing the impeachment trial before the Senate, Schiff (D-CA) and his team had prepared thoroughly and carefully to demonstrate that Trump had, in fact, withheld the money in order to force Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help Trump rig the 2020 election. 

Trump’s team wanted Zelensky to announce that he was launching an investigation into Hunter Biden, whose father, Joe Biden, was the opponent Trump most feared for the 2020 presidential election. The media would jump at such an announcement and chew it over until by the time the election came around, voters would associate Biden with criminality, just as they had condemned Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server. 

As Schiff prepared to summarize the powerful testimony that supported the case for impeachment, a member of his staff stopped him. Schiff recalled the staffer telling him: “They think we’ve proven him guilty. They need to know why he should be removed.” 

Schiff interpreted that question to mean that senators wanted to know why they should remove him. After all, he was giving them the judges they wanted and permitting them to run the country as they wished. 

Schiff’s masterful summary of the case both at the trial and in his book answered that question, explaining that senators should have taken on themselves the responsibility for removing Trump from office because he threatened the country’s national security and, if not checked, would continue to abuse his power. 

In the end, only Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to convict Trump of abuse of power (but not obstruction of Congress), but that one vote from “one brave man,” Schiff recalled, “had validated my belief and that of the Founders, that the people possessed sufficient virtue to be self-governing.”

But there is another interpretation of the reason senators wanted to know why Trump should be removed even though they admitted he was guilty of trying to rig an election with machinations that hurt the country’s national security: The leaders of the Republican Party had abandoned the rule of law.

After World War II, political philosopher Hannah Arendt explained that lies are central to the rise of authoritarianism. In place of reality, authoritarians lie to create a “fictitious world through consistent lying.” Ordinary people embraced such lies because they believed everyone lied anyhow, and if caught trusting a lie, they would “take refuge in cynicism,” saying they had known all along they were being lied to and admiring their leaders “for their superior tactical cleverness.” But leaders embraced the lies because they reinforced those leaders’ superiority, and gave them power, over those who did believe them. 

That pattern, in which lies undermine the rule of law, seems to be going around these days. It is in the news internationally as Russian president Vladimir Putin is directly challenging international law both by taking Ukrainian territory by force and by committing war crimes. He justifies that destruction of the rule of law by claiming that sham referenda in four regions of Ukraine have made those regions Russian, and that any attempt of Ukrainians to reclaim their territory will be an attack on Russia that may require a nuclear response. 

The rejection of the rule of law is also in the news at home, as Republican leaders appear to be following Trump’s lead. Tonight, New York Times reporters Edgar Sandoval, Miriam Jordan, Patricia Mazzei, and J. David Goodman explained the lies behind Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s dumping of migrants at Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts last month. 

Since Biden took office, Republicans have tried to make unauthorized immigration a key election issue. In June 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott and Arizona governor Doug Ducey invoked the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an agreement that lets states send aid to each other after a governor has declared a disaster or an emergency. Abbott has declared a disaster and Ducey an emergency over the influx of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that the Biden administration is “unwilling or unable” to secure the border. They called for governors of other states to send “additional law enforcement personnel and equipment” to “arrest migrants who illegally cross the border into our territory.” 

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis all pledged to send law enforcement to Texas and Arizona; South Dakota governor Kristi Noem one-upped them by announcing that she would send 50 South Dakota National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and that billionaires Willis and Reba Johnson from Franklin, Tennessee, would pay for the troops.

Florida’s budget this year—signed in June—continued this trend with a $12 million fund “to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens out of Florida.” According to Douglas Soule of the Tallahassee Democrat, that money came from interest on the $8.8 billion Florida got from the American Rescue Plan to address the coronavirus pandemic. Because it was interest, rather than principal, it was not covered by the federal requirement to address Covid-19, as the federal money itself was. 

The idea was to highlight federal transportation of “unauthorized” migrants into Florida, but by August the money was untouched because there actually weren’t large groups of migrants coming to the state. So DeSantis focused instead on Texas, where a woman the New York Times reporters identified as Perla Huerta, a U.S. Army veteran who was a combat medic and a counterintelligence agent for two decades before being discharged last month, recruited destitute migrants to go north with the promise of work. Vertol Systems, which charters airplanes and is well connected with Florida Republican politicians, was paid more than $1.5 million, but how they were hired and by whom is not clear.

The people the operation targeted were legal asylum seekers, who were provided with fake maps and misled about where they were going. 

Putin has to reckon with reality, in the form of Russian men fleeing the country, protests in Dagestan and elsewhere, the international community standing firm on the law, and Ukrainian forces continuing to gain ground. Less than a day after Putin announced he had taken the Ukrainian regions, Russian troops fled from the key transport city of Lyman.

Whether DeSantis and the Republican Party will have to reckon with reality in 2022 remains unclear. But it seems unlikely that any reality check will come from Republican leaders. Just this weekend, they have refused to comment on Trump’s inflammatory statement about Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), which seemed to encourage violence against him and included a racist smear against McConnell’s wife, Trump transportation secretary Elaine Chao. 

In the Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty concluded that while Trump was outrageous, “there is plenty of fault to go around. The Republican Party’s refusal to denounce him makes them complicit.” 

Notes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-his-vote-to-convict-trump-on-abuse-of-power-romney-will-break-with-his-party–and-awaits-the-consequences/2020/02/05/a76dce74-4841-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html

https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2022/08/26/ron-desantis-plan-relocate-undocumented-immigrants-florida-worries-advocates/7895029001/

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/30/republicans-immigration-political-weapon-497227

https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2021/06/28/kristi-noem-governor-gov-south-dakota-deploy-national-guard-troops-texas-us-mexico-border/7787945002/

https://www.axios.com/kristi-noem-south-dakota-texas-national-guard-7f679fa9-5312-4185-b614-198ebbc0feaf.html

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/auto-scrap-billionaire-who-paid-to-send-national-guard-to-southern-border-sounds-off-on-why-he-did-it

​​https://www.voanews.com/a/latest-developments-in-ukraine-oct-2/6772232.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/01/trump-mcconnell-death-wish/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/10/01/trump-mcconnell-attack/

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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 25
 
 

In Arizona, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson has restored a law put into effect by Arizona’s Territorial legislature in 1864 and then reworked in 1901 that has been widely interpreted as a ban on all abortions except to save a woman’s life. Oddly, I know quite a bit about the 1864 Arizona Territorial legislature, and its story matters as we think about the attempt to impose its will in modern America.

In fact, the Civil War era law seems not particularly concerned with women handling their own reproductive care—it actually seems to ignore that practice entirely. The laws for this territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men.

The criminal code talks about “miscarriage” in the context of other male misbehavior. It focuses at great length on dueling, for example— making illegal not only the act of dueling (punishable by three years in jail) but also having anything to do with a duel. And then, in the section that became the law now resurrected in Arizona, the law takes on the issue of poisoning.

In that context, the context of punishing those who secretly administer poison to kill someone, it says that anyone who uses poison or instruments “with the intention to procure the miscarriage of any woman then being with child” would face two to five years in jail, “Provided, that no physician shall be affected by the last clause of this section, who in the discharge of his professional duties deems it necessary to produce the miscarriage of any woman in order to save her life.”

The next section warns against cutting out tongues or eyes, slitting noses or lips, or “rendering…useless” someone’s arm or leg.

The law that is currently interpreted to outlaw abortion care seemed designed to keep men in the chaos of the Civil War from inflicting damage on others—including pregnant women—rather than to police women’s reproductive care, which women largely handled on their own or through the help of doctors who used drugs and instruments to remove what they called dangerous blockages of women’s natural cycles in the four to five months before fetal movement became obvious.

Written to police the behavior of men, the code tells a larger story about power and control.

The Arizona Territorial legislature in 1864 had 18 men in the lower House of Representatives and 9 men in the upper house, the Council, for a total of 27 men. They met on September 26, 1864, in Prescott. The session ended about six weeks later, on November 10.

The very first thing the legislators did was to authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to prepare a code of laws for the territory. But William T. Howell, a judge who had arrived in the territory the previous December, had already written one, which the legislature promptly accepted as a blueprint.

Although they did discuss his laws, the members later thanked Judge Howell for “preparing his excellent and able Code of Laws” and, as a mark of their appreciation, provided that the laws would officially be called “The Howell Code.” (They also paid him a handsome $2500, which was equivalent to at least 5 years’ salary for a workingman in that era.) Judge Howell wrote the territory’s criminal code essentially single-handedly.

The second thing the legislature did was to give a member of the House of Representatives a divorce from his wife.

Then they established a county road near Prescott.

Then they gave a local army surgeon a divorce from his wife.

In a total of 40 laws, the legislature incorporated a number of road companies, railway companies, ferry companies, and mining companies. They appropriated money for schools and incorporated the Arizona Historical Society.

These 27 men constructed a body of laws to bring order to the territory and to jump-start development. But their vision for the territory was a very particular one.

The legislature provided that “No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to [testify in court] against any white person,” thus making it impossible for them to protect their property, their families, or themselves from their white neighbors. It declared that “all marriages between a white person and a [Black person], shall…be absolutely void.”

And it defined the age of consent for sexual intercourse to be just ten years old (even if a younger child had “consented”).

So, in 1864, a legislature of 27 white men created a body of laws that discriminated against Black people and people of color and considered girls as young as 10 able to consent to sex, and they adopted a body of criminal laws written by one single man.

And in 2022, one of those laws is back in force in Arizona.

Notes:

https://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/digital/collection/hxazstatutes/id/0/rec/2

John S. Goff, “William T. Howell and the Howell Code of Arizona,” American Journal of Legal History 11 (July 1967): 221–233.

Acts, Resolutions and Memorials, Adopted by the First Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Arizona (Prescott: Office of the Arizona Miner, 1865). 

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September 23, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Sep 24
 Today, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who took over as the chair of the House Republican Conference after the party rejected Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her refusal to back the January 6 insurrection, released the House Republicans’ plan for the country.

Covering just a single page, it presents vague aspirations—many of which Biden has already put in place—but focuses on the radical extremes of the MAGA party while trying to make those extremes sound mild.

The so-called “Commitment to America” calls for a strong economy, a safe nation, a free future, and an accountable government. So far, so good.

But the first topic—making the economy strong—is a paraphrase of what the Biden administration has been doing. The Republicans call for fighting inflation and lowering the cost of living, making America energy independent, bringing down gas prices, strengthening the supply chain, and ending the country’s dependence on China.

This is quite literally the platform of the Democrats, but while the Republicans offer no actual proposals to contribute to these goals, Biden has taken concrete steps to address inflation by taking on the shipping monopolies that hiked transportation costs, for example, while Democrats in Congress have passed legislation capping the cost of certain prescription medications. Biden has released reserves to help combat high gas prices, which have now fallen close to their cost last March—a barrel of oil is now under $80—while expanding our nation’s pool of truck drivers and just last week averting a train strike that would have endangered supply chains. The incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are designed specifically to make America energy independent while addressing climate change, and Biden’s extraordinary efforts to support economic development in the Indo-Pacific region, along with the CHIPS and Science Act, were explicitly designed to reduce U.S. dependence on China.

It feels rather as if the Republicans recognize that Biden’s policies are popular, and are hoping that voters haven’t noticed that he is actually putting them in place.

Then the document gets to the heart of its argument, recycling MAGA talking points in language that makes it very attractive. Who doesn’t want national safety, for example?

But national safety is described here as securing the border and combatting illegal immigration (something already in place), adding 200,000 police officers through recruiting bonuses, cracking down on prosecutors and district attorneys who refuse to prosecute crimes (this is likely directed at those who say they will not prosecute women for obtaining abortions), criminalizing all fentanyl, and supporting our troops and exercising peace through strength (which likely means reversing Biden’s emphasis on multilateral diplomacy to return to using the U.S. military as a global enforcer)— all MAGA demands.

“A Future That’s Built on Freedom” is a similar sleight of hand, meaning something far from the freedom of the recent past. Here it means giving parents control over their childrens’ education (more book banning and laws that prohibit teaching subjects that make students “uncomfortable”), “defend[ing] fairness by ensuring that only women can compete in women’s sports” (there’s the anti-trans statement), achieving “longer, healthier lives for Americans” by what appears to be getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, and what appears to be a defense of the use of ivermectin and other quack cures popular on the right (“lower prices through transparency, choice, and competition,” “invest in lifesaving cures,” and “improve access to telemedicine”). It also demands confronting “Big Tech” to make it fair, which is likely a reference to the right wing’s conviction that social media discriminates against it by banning hate speech.

The section about accountable government calls for preserving constitutional freedoms, which they interpret as an apparent national ban on abortion—a constitutional right until this past June—saying they will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” They defend “religious freedom,” which the right wing, including the Supreme Court, has interpreted as freedom for Christian schools to receive public tax money and for Christian coaches to pray with students. The document also calls for safeguarding the Second Amendment, which the right wing has increasingly interpreted since the 1970s to mean that the government cannot regulate gun ownership.

This section of the document calls for rigorous oversight of the government “to rein in government abuse of power and corruption,” providing “real transparency,” and requiring the White House “to answer for its incompetence at home and abroad.” It also says Republicans will “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”

While the part of this section that calls for stopping government abuse and incompetence seems rich coming from the MAGA Republicans, the statement that they intend to protect Social Security and Medicare strikes me as I felt when hearing Trump tell voters in 2020 that he would protect Obamacare at the very time his lawyers were in court trying to overturn the law. Now, in this moment, leading Republicans have vowed to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, which is an interesting way to “save and strengthen” them.

Similarly, the section promising to “restore the people’s voice” calls for voting restrictions.

In short, the document feels like the doublespeak from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. To defend the indefensible, Orwell wrote in an essay titled “Politics and the English Language,” “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who focused on the power of language to alter reality and who helped to write the 1994 Contract with America that enabled the Republicans to take control of the House for the first time since 1954, worked on this document. The Contract with America, which party leaders called a contract as a promise that it would be binding, led the Republicans to shut down the government for 28 days between November 1995 and January 1996 to get their way before they entirely abandoned the “contract.”

To sell today’s document to voters, Republicans used a slick video, but Jennifer Bendery of HuffPost noted that the film uses stock videos from Russia and Ukraine in its “Commitment to America.” When Bendery reached out to McCarthy for comment, his spokesperson Mark Bednar responded: “Interesting how you guys aren’t remotely interested in the issues facing the American people in the video.”

But will it work? The document tries to win Trump voters without actually mentioning Trump, who now alienates all but his fervent supporters. But he continues to dominate the Republican Party and to grab the headlines. Tonight, 60 Minutes teased a story that will broadcast on Sunday and is already raising eyebrows. In it, Denver Riggleman, former senior tech advisor for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, said that the White House switchboard connected a call to a rioter’s phone while the Capitol was under siege on January 6, 2021.—Notes:https://www.huffpost.com/entry/house-republicans-commitment-to-america-stock-footage-russia-ukraine_n_632dc7afe4b0d12b5404bab160 Minutes @60MinutesThe White House switchboard connected a call to a rioter while the Capitol was under siege on January 6, 2021, according to former January 6 committee staffer Denver Riggleman. “I only know one end of that call,” Riggleman said. cbsn.ws/3BDxkopImageSeptember 23rd 202213,260 Retweets32,088 Likeshttps://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/gop-leaders-roll-out-commitment-to-america-midterm-election-agenda-but-challenges-remainRonald Klain @WHCOSOil has fallen below $80/barrel today. This makes this @POTUS message from yesterday even more compelling. President Biden @POTUSGas prices fell by $1.30 this summer, that’s good news for families. But energy companies are making record profits and retailer margins are 30% above normal. That’s money that should be in folks’ pockets. Industry must pass savings on to consumers by lowering prices. Now.September 23rd 2022593 Retweets2,240 LikesShareLikeCommentShare

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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 17
 
 

The big story in the news over the past couple of days is that Florida governor Ron DeSantis chartered two planes to fly about 50 migrants, most of whom were from Venezuela, to Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.

The story is still developing. Although DeSantis is the governor of Florida, the migrants appear to have come from Texas, and it currently appears that they were lured onto the planes—paid for with taxpayer money—with the false promise of work and housing in New York City or Boston. In addition, there are allegations from a lawyer working with the migrants that officials from the Department of Homeland Security falsified information about the migrants to set them up for automatic deportation. As I write this, it is not clear what their actual status is: have they applied for asylum and been processed, or are they undocumented immigrants?

As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo says, none of it adds up.

None of it, that is, except the politics. DeSantis apparently dispatched the migrants with a videographer to take images of them arriving, entirely unexpectedly, on the upscale island, presumably in an attempt to present the image that Democratic areas can’t handle immigrants (in fact, more than 12% of the island’s 17,000 full-time residents were born in foreign countries, and 22% of the residents are non-white). But the residents of the island greeted the migrants; found beds, food, and medical care; and worked with authorities to move them back to the mainland where there are support services and housing. In the meantime, there are questions about the legality of DeSantis chartering planes to move migrants from state to state.

There are two big stories behind DeSantis’s move.

First is that the Republicans are on the ropes over the Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision and the capture of the party by its MAGA wing. That slide into radical extremism means the party is contracting, but it is not clear at all that base voters will show up in the midterms without former president Trump on the ballot.

Rallying voters with threats of “aliens” swamping traditional society is a common tactic of right-wing politicians; it was the central argument that brought Hungary’s Viktor Orbán into his current authoritarian position. Republican governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona have been bussing migrants to Washington—about 10,000 of them—saying they would bring the immigrant issue to the doorsteps of Democrats. Now DeSantis is in on the trick.

Immigrants are nothing new to northern cities, of course. The U.S. is in a period of high immigration. Currently, 15% of the inhabitants of Washington, D.C., are foreign born, only slightly less than the 16.8% of the population of Texas that is foreign born. About 29% of the inhabitants of Boston come from outside U.S. borders, as do 36% of the inhabitants of New York City.

In the lead-up to the midterms, Republicans have tried to distract from their unpopular stands on abortion, contraception, marriage equality, and so on, by hammering on the idea that the Democrats have created “open borders”; that criminal immigrants are bringing in huge amounts of drugs, especially fentanyl; and that Biden is secretly flying undocumented immigrants into Republican states in the middle of the night. Beginning in July, they began to insist that the country is being “invaded.”

In fact, the border is not “open.” Fences, surveillance technology, and about 20,000 Border Patrol agents make the border more secure than it has ever been. That means apprehensions of undocumented migrants are up, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recording more than 3 million encounters at the border since January 2021. Those high numbers reflect people stopped from coming in and are artificially inflated because many who are stopped try again. CBP estimates that about 27% of those stopped at the border are repeat apprehensions.

Although much fentanyl is being stopped, some is indeed coming in, but through official ports of entry in large trucks or cars, not on individual migrants, who statistically are far less likely than native-born Americans to commit crimes. And the federal government is not secretly flying anyone anywhere (although, ironically, DeSantis is); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sometimes moves migrants between detention centers, and CBP transfers unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services. These flights have been going on for years.

The second story is the history of American immigration, which is far more complicated and interesting than the current news stories suggest.

Mexican immigration is nothing new; our western agribusinesses were built on migrant labor of Mexicans, Japanese, and poor whites, among others, in the late 19th century. From the time the current border was set in 1848 until the 1930s, people moved back and forth across it without restrictions. But in 1965, Congress passed the Hart-Celler Act, putting a cap on Latin American immigration for the first time. The cap was low: just 20,000, although 50,000 workers were coming annually.

After 1965, workers continued to come as they always had, and to be employed, as always. But now their presence was illegal. In 1986, Congress tried to fix the problem by offering amnesty to 2.3 million Mexicans who were living in the U.S. and by cracking down on employers who hired undocumented workers. But rather than ending the problem of undocumented workers, the new law exacerbated it by beginning the process of militarizing the border. Until then, migrants into the United States had been offset by an equal number leaving at the end of the season. Once the border became heavily guarded, Mexican migrants refused to take the chance of leaving.

Then, in the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) flooded Mexico with U.S. corn and drove Mexican farmers to find work in the American Southeast. This immigration boom had passed by 2007, when the number of undocumented Mexicans living in the United States began to decline as more Mexicans left the U.S. than came.

In 2013 a large majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, backed a bill to fix the disconnect caused by the 1965 law. In 2013, with a bipartisan vote of 68–32, the Senate passed a bill giving a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, who would have to meet security requirements. It required employers to verify that they were hiring legal workers. It created a visa system for unskilled workers, and it got rid of preference for family migration in favor of skill-based migration. And it strengthened border security. It would have passed the House, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to bring it up for a vote, aware that the issue of immigration would rally Republican voters.

But most of the immigrants coming over the southern border now are not Mexican migrants.

Beginning around 2014, people began to flee “warlike levels of violence” in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, coming to the U.S. for asylum. This is legal, although most come illegally, taking their chances with smugglers who collect fees to protect migrants on the Mexican side of the border and to get them into the U.S.

The Obama administration tried to deter migrants by expanding the detention of families, and it made significant investments in Central America in an attempt to stabilize the region by expanding economic development and promoting security. The Trump administration emphasized deterrence. It cut off support to Central American countries, worked with authoritarians to try to stop regional gangs, drastically limited the number of refugees the U.S. would admit, and—infamously—deliberately separated children from their parents to deter would-be asylum seekers.

The number of migrants to the U.S. dropped throughout Trump’s years in office. The Trump administration gutted immigration staff and facilities and then cut off immigration during the pandemic under Title 42, a public health order.

The Biden administration coincided with the easing of the pandemic and catastrophic storms in Central America, leading migration to jump, but the administration continued to turn migrants back under Title 42 and resumed working with Central American countries to stem the violence that is sparking people to flee. (In nine months, the Trump administration expelled more than 400,000 people under Title 42; in Biden’s first 18 months, his administration expelled 1.7 million people.)

The Biden administration sought to end Title 42 last May, but a lawsuit by Republican states led a federal judge in Louisiana to keep the policy in place. People arriving at the U.S. border have the right to apply for asylum even under Title 42.

There are a lot of moving pieces in the immigration debate: migrants need safety, the U.S. needs workers, our immigrant-processing systems are understaffed, and our laws are outdated. They need real solutions, not political stunts.

Notes:

https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/01/texas-national-guard-border-operation-lone-star-abbott/

https://www.boston.gov/departments/immigrant-advancement/immigrant-demographics#:~:text=Boston%20is%20a%20welcoming%20City,has%20more%20than%20690%2C000%20residents.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-09-15/marthas-vineyard-migrants-ron-desantis

https://www.urban.org/stateofdcimmigrants

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/16/desantis-geographic-conflict-2024-election/

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/TX/POP010210

https://www.politifact.com/article/2022/sep/06/surprising-number-americans-believe-these-false-cl/

https://www.axios.com/2022/09/15/desantis-marthas-vineyard-migrants-biden

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/18/immigration-border-republicans/

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/doesnt-add-up/sharetoken/lkQnyIQXsVFR

https://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/immigration-bill-2013-senate-passes-093530

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/title-42-immigration-border-biden-covid-19-cdc/

https://www.rescue.org/article/it-legal-cross-us-border-seek-asylum

https://www.wcvb.com/article/venezuelan-migrants-flown-to-marthas-vineyard-being-offered-shelter-support-on-cape-cod/41244254#

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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 6

Today, on the federal holiday of Labor Day, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted former president Trump’s request for a special master to review the nearly 11,000 documents FBI agents seized in their search of the Trump Organization’s property at Mar-a-Lago on August 8.

The special master will examine the documents, some of which have the highest classification markings, to remove personal items or those covered by attorney-client privilege or those that might be covered by executive privilege (although President Joe Biden, who holds the presidency and thus should be able to determine that privilege, has waived it). The order temporarily stops the Department of Justice from reviewing or using the materials as part of their investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified information.

That is, a Trump-appointed judge, confirmed by the Senate on November 13, 2020, after Trump had lost the election, has stepped between the Department of Justice and the former president in the investigation of classified documents stolen from the government.

Legal analysts appear to be appalled by the poor quality of the opinion. Former U.S. acting solicitor general Neal Katyal called it “so bad it’s hard to know where to begin.” Law professor Stephen Vladeck told Charlie Savage of the New York Times that it was “an unprecedented intervention…into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation.” Paul Rosenzweig, a prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, told Savage it was “a genuinely unprecedented decision” and said stopping the criminal investigation was “simply untenable.” Duke University law professor Samuel Buell added: “To any lawyer with serious federal criminal court experience…, this ruling is laughably bad…. Trump is getting something no one else ever gets in federal court, he’s getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce the ongoing howls that he’s being persecuted, when he is being privileged.”

The judge justified her decision because she was “mindful of the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances presented.”

Energy and politics reporter David Roberts of Volts pointed out that this is a common pattern for MAGA Republicans. First, they spread lies and conspiracy theories, then they act based on the “appearance” that something is shady. “So this… judge says Trump deserves extraordinary, unprecedented latitude because of the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and the ‘swirling questions about bias.’ But her fellow reactionaries were the only ones raising questions of bias! It’s a perfectly sealed feedback loop,” and one the right wing has perfected over “voter fraud.”

As political scientist Brendan Nyhan points out, bad-faith attacks on our democratic processes open the door for changing those processes.

Something else jumps out about the judge’s construction, though: it makes MAGA Republicans the only ones whose sentiments matter. This is the same construction President Andrew Johnson used to justify his plan to end Reconstruction and remove troops from the South in December 1865. He told Congress that using the army to protect new governments there “would have divided the people into the vanquishers and the vanquished, and would have envenomed hatred rather than restored affection.” Missing from Johnson’s equation were the four million Black southerners who, in fact, welcomed the injection of the weight of the federal government into the former Confederate states.

The idea that Cannon felt obliged to reassure MAGA Republicans that Trump is being treated fairly, rather than the rest of us that the rule of law is being protected, redefines the American public and American principles.

The neutrality of the law is central to democracy. But it is increasingly under question as Republican-appointed judges make decisions that disregard settled law, and Cannon’s decision will not help. She actually singles out Trump as having a different relationship to the law than the rest of us in a number of ways, but especially when she expresses concern over how his reputation could be hurt by an indictment: “As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own. A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude.”

This attack on the rule of law—the idea that the laws apply to everyone equally—has been underway since the administration of Ronald Reagan, when Attorney General Edwin Meese set out to, as he said, “institutionalize the Reagan revolution so it can’t be set aside no matter what happens in future presidential elections.” Contrary to established procedures at the Department of Justice, Reagan appointees began to quiz candidates for judgeships about their views on abortion and affirmative action, to tilt the direction in which the courts would rule.

The 1982 establishment of the Federalist Society, made up of lawyers determined to roll back the legal decisions of the post–World War II era, made it easier to tilt the courts. Those lawyers stood against what they called “judicial activism,” decisions that justified the expansion of a federal government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, protected civil rights, and promoted infrastructure.

As Republican policies grew less popular, party leaders focused not on adjusting their policies, but on filling judgeships with judges who would rule in their favor in lawsuits. This focus was so strong by the time of Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, that then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stalled confirmations for Obama’s nominees, banking on leaving vacancies for a new president to fill. Most dramatically, of course, he refused to permit a hearing for Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court seat in March 2016, inventing a new rule that that date was too close to the upcoming November election to allow the nomination to proceed.

This left the seat free for Trump to appoint Neil Gorsuch, who could not make it through the Senate until McConnell used the so-called “nuclear option” to get rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments, which enabled him to squeak through with just 51 votes.

Trump and McConnell—who was known for saying, “Leave no vacancy behind”—made reshaping the federal judiciary their top priority. McConnell approved the new judges with vigor, keeping the Senate confirming them during the pandemic, for example, even when all other business stopped. And he continued to push through appointments—like that of Judge Cannon—even after Trump lost the election.

Philosopher Jason Stanley of Yale University, best known for his 2018 book How Fascism Works, tweeted today: “Once you have the courts you can pretty much do whatever you want.”

Cannon’s decision addresses only the criminal investigation of the former president by the Department of Justice, and it is not clear how much of a delay it will create. While that is on hold, at least temporarily, the intelligence assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will proceed without check. It is still unclear what documents are missing, and who has had unauthorized access to the information Trump took.

This breach of our national security has the potential to be catastrophic.

Trump certainly appears to think the game is not yet over. Once again today, he attacked the FBI and the DOJ and demanded the results of the 2020 election be overturned.

Notes:

David Roberts @drvoltsI’m not a legal analyst, but I hope everyone is taking note of a particular maneuver that this Trumpy judge pulled — a very, very familiar maneuver from reactionaries. It goes like this: first the RW propaganda networks spreads of bunch of lies & lunatic conspiracy theories.September 5th 2022474 Retweets1,336 Likes

Brendan Nyhan @BrendanNyhanImportant @drvolts on how what happened on voter fraud is now happening with the DOJ – see in particular quote from judge’s ruling below. Why the need for unprecedented concessions to address “the appearance of fairness and integrity”? Because of bad faith attacks on the process. September 5th 2022119 Retweets255 Likes

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/first-annual-message-10

Bradley P. Moss @BradMossEsqThey still are NOT personal records then and would absolutely not be subject to return to Trump under Rule 41. 5) how on earth is the IC doing it’s damage assessment without the FBI being involved? That’s ludicrous. So these are EP-protected records for criminal purposesSeptember 5th 2022166 Retweets929 Likes

Harry Litman @harrylitman“Trump contacted FBI,” “Trump handed over documents;” but “the government CONTENDS” that response to the subpoena was incomplete.September 5th 2022120 Retweets685 Likes

Jason Stanley @jasonintratorOnce you have the courts you can pretty much do whatever you want.September 5th 20221,841 Retweets9,424 Likes

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-09-28-op-9537-story.html

https://www.teammitch.com/mitch-mcconnell-leaves-no-vacancy-behind/

https://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-option-gorsuch-filibuster-senate-2017-4

Neal Katyal @neal_katyalThis special master opinion is so bad it’s hard to know where to begin: 1. She says Biden hasn’t weighed in on whether docs protected by Exec Privilege. Nonsense. The archives letter (which DOJ submitted to the Judge) makes it clear current President thinks none of this …September 5th 202214,546 Retweets46,815 Likes

Brendan Nyhan @BrendanNyhanFormer acting Solicitor General: “any of my first year law students would have written a better opinion.” Read the whole thread. Neal Katyal @neal_katyalThis special master opinion is so bad it’s hard to know where to begin: 1. She says Biden hasn’t weighed in on whether docs protected by Exec Privilege. Nonsense. The archives letter (which DOJ submitted to the Judge) makes it clear current President thinks none of this …September 5th 2022101 Retweets257 Likes

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 12

Since Monday’s search of former president Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property by the FBI, Trump, Trump supporters, and right-wing media have all been accusing the government of executing a political vendetta and speculating that FBI agents might have planted evidence on the property. 

This afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland gave a brief press conference in which he announced that the unjustified attacks on the Department of Justice (DOJ) have led it to file a motion to unseal the search warrant the FBI used and a redacted version of the receipt for the things removed from the premises. He also confirmed that copies of the warrant and the property receipt were left with Trump, as regulations require. Had Trump wanted to release them, he could have…and he still can, at any time.

Contrary to right-wing reports, Trump’s lawyer was at Mar-a-Lago during the search, which a federal court authorized after finding probable cause. Garland said that he personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant, and he also pointed out that the Department of Justice did not publicize the search; the former president did. Because of the public interest in the matter—and to clear up confusion over it—the department is asking a judge to unseal the documents.

Garland also defended FBI agents against attacks on them, saying, “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves.” 

Garland explained the principle at stake. “Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor. Under my watch that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. All Americans are entitled to the evenhanded application of the law, to due process of the law, and to the presumption of innocence.” 

He also reminded people that “the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work.”

The DOJ motion to unseal the search warrant tells us a bit more. It was signed by U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and by Jay Bratt, the chief of the department’s counterintelligence section. The motion also throws the ball into Trump’s court, saying “the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections….” This boxes Trump in. He and his supporters have been demanding the documents be released, although  the DOJ cannot release them and Trump can. This motion means that the DOJ has made a strong case to get permission to release them…unless Trump objects. Essentially, the DOJ just called his bluff. 

At the New York Times, Katie Benner reported that already “Trump allies are discussing the possibility of challenging the Justice Department’s motion to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. They have contacted outside lawyers about helping them.” 

This should play out quickly: a judge this afternoon told the DOJ to discuss with Trump’s lawyer whether Trump objects to unsealing the documents and to let the judge know by 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Tonight, Trump said he would not oppose the document’s release, but he didn’t release them himself, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Another right-wing talking point about the search fell apart today as well. Fox News Channel personalities have argued that the Justice Department should simply have issued a subpoena for the material. “Get a subpoena, he will give it back,” Jesse Watters said. “It’s not like Trump won’t cooperate.” But in fact it turns out the DOJ did deliver a subpoena two months ago, and the former president did not comply.

For all the loud protests of Trump supporters over the search, other Republicans—even ones who were previously Team Trump—seem to be backing away. Today, Fox News Channel contributor and former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush Ari Fleischer tweeted: “One thing I can’t wrap my arms around: If Trump had classified documents, why didn’t he give them back? Maybe he thought they were declassified. Maybe he thought it was government overreach. But if, for whatever reason, you have a classified document at home, you give it back.” 

For his part, Trump tried to suggest his own retention of documents was not nearly as bad as that of former president Barack Obama, who, Trump alleged, took “33 Million pages of documents…to Chicago.” He is referring to the materials for the Obama presidential library, which have been moved from the National Archives and Records Administration with its permission and cooperation.

Tonight, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein, and Shane Harris at the Washington Post broke the story that the FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago were looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons, underscoring that the search was imperative. We don’t know any more than that, and heaven knows that’s bad enough. 

But what springs to mind for me is the plan pushed by Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and fundraiser and campaign advisor Tom Barrack, to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, whistleblowers from the National Security Council worried that their efforts might have broken the law and that the effort to make the transfer was ongoing. The plan was to enable Saudi leaders to build nuclear power plants, a plan that would have yielded billions of dollars to the investors but would have allowed Saudi Arabia to build nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Zachary Cohen, Jamie Gangel, Sara Murray, and Pamela Brown of CNN report that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has interviewed the former secretary of transportation in the Trump administration, Elaine Chao, and is in discussions with former education secretary Betsy DeVos and former national security advisor Robert O’Brien. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo met with the committee on Tuesday. At least nine Cabinet-level officials either have talked to the committee or are negotiating the terms of interviews. One of the topics has been the attempt to remove Trump through the 25th Amendment after the events of January 6. 

The lies about the FBI and the January 6th attack on the Capitol came together today and took a life. Ricky Walter Shiffer, who appears to have been at the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, shot into the FBI field office in Cincinnati with a nail gun this morning while brandishing an AR-15-style weapon. After the attack, he took refuge in a cornfield, where law enforcement officers killed him this afternoon.

Notes:

Kyle Cheney @kyledcheneyMORE: The motion to unseal was signed by U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Jay Bratt, chief of DOJ’s counterintelligence section. DOJ is also moving to unseal a “redacted Property Receipt listing items seized pursuant to the search.”August 11th 2022559 Retweets2,087 Likes

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/armed-man-shoots-fbi-cincinnati-building-nail-gun-flees-leading-inters-rcna42669

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/11/politics/elaine-chao-trump-cabinet-january-6-25th-amendment/index.html

Ari Fleischer @AriFleischerOne thing I can’t wrap my arms around: If Trump had classified documents, why didn’t he give them back? Maybe he thought they were declassified. Maybe he thought it was government overreach. But if, for whatever reason, you have a classified document at home, you give it back.August 11th 20221,000 Retweets10,579 Likes

Chris Jansing @ChrisJansingThe suspect who attacked the FBI field office in Cincinnati has been killed by law enforcement, according to two officials familiar with the matter. His name is Ricky Walter Shiffer. He was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. @NBCNewsAugust 11th 20229,214 Retweets31,950 Likes

https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/fox-complained-feds-should-have-subpoenaed-trumps-documents-seeking-search-warrant-they

Charlie Savage @charlie_savageThe judge says he wants DOJ to give a copy of its motion to Trump’s lawyer and then to tell him by 3 p.m. tomorrow whether Trump objects to unsealing the docs. August 11th 2022399 Retweets1,317 Likes

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/11/garland-trump-mar-a-lago/

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/flynn-backed-plan-transfer-nuclear-tech-saudis-may-have-broken-n973021

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https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5743767-House-Oversight-Whistleblowers-Saudi-Nuclear.html

Maggie Haberman @maggieNYTTrump not opposing warrant release August 12th 20221,007 Retweets3,583 Likes

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Opinion: The propaganda campaign to wreck Social Security is right on track

Last Updated: July 30, 2022 at 12:07 p.m. ETFirst Published: July 29, 2022 at 10:32 a.m. ET

By 

Brett Arends

The defeatism about America’s retirement plan is getting worse

Some 70% of adults now worry about Social Security running out of funding during their lifetimes, including not just 78% of Generation X but even 64% of baby boomers, who are already 57 or older.

And a third of adults fear they will not see “a dime” of the Social Security benefits they have earned, including 15% of non-retired boomers, 30% of Generation X, and 47% of millennials.

So reports the Nationwide Retirement Institute’s 2022 Social Security Survey, a poll of nearly 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics.

And the defeatism about America’s retirement plan is getting worse (or, if you consider Social Security akin to communism and want to destroy it, better). The survey shows a big bump compared with last year in the number of people who expect to have to keep working in retirement because Social Security won’t be able to support them, and a big bump in the numbers planning to start claiming benefits early even while working. Some 42% now plan to file for benefits early, up from 36% just a year ago.

If you figure the system is about to go broke, you’d want to start claiming as soon as possible so you at least get something, right? Especially if you are genuinely worried you won’t see “a dime” of the benefits you’ve earned.

The propaganda scam against Social Security is proving to be a master class. It is and has always been a massively popular government program, right from when it was started. Politicians used to call Social Security the third rail of American politics: “Touch it and die.” So how do you persuade people to kill off a popular program? Simple: You persuade them it’s already dead!

Genius!

This is how people like senators Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney can hold out the prospect of cutting back on Social Security benefits if their party wins the midterm elections and apparently nobody cares.

After all, it’s already dead, right?

(There is something especially ironic about being told that Social Security can’t be saved by a multi, multimillionaire senator who pays 14% tax, while people busing tables pay 15.3% FICA, plus whatever in income tax.)

Actually, this isn’t reality at all. Social Security is still on track to pay about 80% of expected benefits. And even this anticipated funding shortfall is purely political. It could be avoided by ending the cap on incomes subject to payroll taxes, taxing the gigantic sums of untaxed capital gains, or just investing Social Security in stocks like any normal pension plan.

Saving the program would interfere with the campaign to persuade people it’s already dead. And we can’t have that.

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