Monday, September 25, 2023

"Speech Rights" Defense Shouldn't Protect Trump From Insurrection Clause Claims

Lawyers for Donald Trump are arguing that he's protected from attempts to have him disqualified for the presidency.

The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows for the barring of a current or former lawmaker who formerly took an oath to the Constitution and "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the U.S., or otherwise gave aid to those who did (that last bit is important). 

Some residents of various states -- including Colorado -- are suing to have Trump blocked from appearing on primary and/or general election ballots next year, due to what happened in his name on January 6, 2021, when the U.S. Capitol was attacked by loyalists to the former POTUS after he riled them up and ordered them to voice their discontent to lawmakers in person.

According to reporting from the Associated Press, Trump's lawyers in Colorado are readying to use a First Amendment speech rights defense to say he should not be disqualified.

From the AP:
Attorneys for former President Donald Trump argue that an attempt to bar him from the 2024 ballot under a rarely used “insurrection” clause of the Constitution should be dismissed as a violation of his freedom of speech.


Trump also will argue that the clause doesn’t apply to him because “the Fourteenth Amendment applies to one who ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion,’ not one who only ‘instigated’ any action,” [Trump attorney Geoffrey] Blue wrote.
On its face, this might appear to be a reasoned argument -- Trump wasn't at the Capitol taking part in the attack, so he shouldn't be called an insurrectionist. Except: the 14th Amendment does not require someone to have been directly involved in the action to be subjected to the law.

As I already pointed out, a person who provides AID to an insurrection is also barred from running for future office under the constitutional provision. Their helping of the insurrection is considered just as bad as the act of the insurrection itself.

Trump's actions -- including his inaction on January 6 -- indicate that he aided those attacking the Capitol. He encouraged them to go there in the first place, and when the mob became violent, he waited for several hours before saying they should go home. 

Witnesses in the White House say he even watched the attack happen on television with glee as it was happening, and that he refused to call out the National Guard.

Passiveness during an insurrection may not hold up in court in most cases, when it comes to this constitutional rule. But when it comes to the president of the United States, especially one who BENEFITS from the mob's actions and takes ZERO action in trying to quell the violence, the passiveness is itself aiding the insurrection.

In short, by doing nothing for several hours while Congress was under attack, Trump was aiding and abetting the insurrection that was happening on his behalf. It doesn't matter whether he was actively a part of it or not -- his inaction that day, in violation of his presidential duties, aided the mob's goals.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Friday, September 15, 2023

Vos Hopes to Fool Wisconsinites With Deceptive "Nonpartisan" Redistricting Bill

Serious checks and balances have been stripped from the redistricting plan offered up by Wisconsin Republicans this week

What more can be said about the redistricting plan offered by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) that hasn't already been said? Well, here's my two cents for you anyway...

When Vos surprisingly announced he now supported enacting a nonpartisan redistricting plan to combat gerrymandering, Democrats were skeptical — this guy and his allies in the state legislature, after all, are firing elections officials over false claims of election fraud and threatening to impeach a duly-elected Supreme Court justices over ideological disagreements. 

Heck, years, prior, Vos and other Republicans even described the plan he's now touting as unconstitutional, a wrong assessment, to be sure, but noteworthy given his sudden embracing of it.

So what changed? The details of the bill (which passed the state legislature on Thursday night and will likely be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers) essentially make it so that nothing changes at all: Vos & Co. can still draw whatever maps they want, so long as they perform a song and dance before they do so.

Despite claiming otherwise, the plan he's offering isn't a replica of a previous plan by Democrats from 2019 that included a number of failsafes against abuse, but rather a plan that looks like it WITHOUT checks and balances to prevent partisan gerrymandering from happening anyway.

Screenshot from Republican Accountability Project (edited)

According to the nonpartisan analysis of the Vos bill, if enacted, a redistricting commission will be created, but if the state legislature doesn't like the maps they draft, they can simply vote twice against them, and then the regular amendment process — without oversight from the commission — will allow legislators to just draw their own maps anyway, with a simple majority vote.

Given that Republicans have already gerrymandered their way to a nearly two-thirds majority in the legislature, it won't be difficult for them to keep passing THEIR maps, decade after decade, to keep control and deny Wisconsinites true representation.

Oh, and the entire process would be exempt from judicial oversight, meaning there would be no recourse for action if Republicans still try to play fast and loose with the process, as they have already demonstrated a propensity for doing. That's fun.

So now, right-wing lawmakers and their allies (this tweet from a far-right troll account was retweeted by Vos) are pooh-poohing Democrats for opposing the plan, wrongly saying they're flip-flopping on the issue. In short, Republicans in the state are hoping we the People are too stupid to realize that their nonpartisan redistricting plan is actually a wolf in sheep's clothing, a continuation of the broken process that is already in place.

Vos's plan will still allow him and Republicans to gerrymander the crap out of our state. And that's the real reason why Vos "changed his mind" on the plan he once opposed — because he gutted it enough to ensure the status quo would not be disturbed. He, in effect, did not change his mind at all.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Trump Whines on Social Media About 14th Amendment Effort to Bar Him From Office

Donald Trump is ranting on his Truth Social site (quick sidebar: how long will that be around for?) against the idea that he could possibly be denied the chance to run for office again under the terms of the 14th Amendment.

Section 3 of that amendment reads as follows:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
To put it in shorter terms, if someone engages in an act of insurrection, or gives aid to others that do, they cannot run for office again, if they've previously taken an oath of office to defend the Constitution before. Only through a two-thirds vote of Congress can that limitation be removed.

Trump whined about the push to have this amendment apply to him.

"Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election," Trump said, likening it to a "trick" that "the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists" were using against him to "steal" the upcoming election.

Almost nothing Trump says can ever be trusted — the former president lied tens of thousands of times during his presidency, as documented by The Washington Post, and he continues to do so today. But it's still worth dissecting this post from him.

1.) The attack on the U.S. Capitol was an insurrection. There's no question about this — the goal of the attackers was to disrupt and stop the counting of the Electoral College, in order to (unlawfully) keep Trump as president. 

2.) While not in total agreement, a growing number of legal scholars, state and federal officials, former judges and nonpartisan government watchdog groups have stated, quite definitively, that Trump is disqualified from running for office under the 14th Amendment. There's no poll that shows MOST think this way, but that can be looked at both ways — there's also no poll that shows "ALMOST ALL" legal scholars agree with Trump, either. His statement on Truth Social is his opinion, and has (SURPRISE!) no basis in fact

But truthfully, there shouldn't be any debate over whether Trump a) was responsible for the Capitol attack, and b) should be barred from office under the terms of the 14th Amendment. Trump riled up his mob of loyalists, telling them that the election was stolen from them, then directed them to express their ire in person at the U.S. Capitol building. Were it not for Trump inviting them to D.C. that day, and telling them in person to go to Congress, it's doubtful the attack would ever have happened.

Even though he used the word "peacefully" once in his lengthy speech preceding the attack (which isn't actually a proper defense for what happened), it's clear he was happy with its results — he reportedly watched it unfold live on TV at the White House, and refused to call off his supporters until several hours later (an important piece of the puzzle in its own right, as this inaction on his part definitely aided the attack).

Trump should be barred from running for office. The country would be better off for it.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Putin Was Taken Aback at How Fit Biden Was During Their Last Meeting — Book

There will be ample debate over the age and physical/mental well-being of President Joe Biden in the coming months, up to Election Day 2024. With three-quarters of Americans viewing Biden as "too old" to lead, the issue is one he'll have to eventually confront.

But at least one world leader believes Biden is more fit than the media (particularly on the right) makes him out to be: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

From Business Insider:
The Russian press had spent months portraying Biden as a fragile old man, a piece of spin that Putin had internalized. But when he greeted Biden, he seemed taken aback by his appearance. 'You look good,' he exclaimed," journalist Franklin Foer wrote in The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, which was published on Tuesday. 
Putin, Foer wrote, was so struck by the fact that Scranton Joe wasn't scrawny that he had to tell then-outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel about it.
Not that the opinions of a brutalistic authoritarian leader matter or anything. In fact, in most cases, their opinions should be dismissed as only serving their own selfish interests. 

But this is an interesting thing to take note of, strictly from the "Biden is too old/weak to lead" argument that is constantly emanating from the far right (which has taken a strong liking to Putin, under Trump's direction, in recent years). 

Age ultimately doesn't matter, in the grand scheme of things, so long as the president makes the right choices and isn't disrupted from being able to serve on account of how old they are. Whether that's true for Biden or not will be up for voters to decide.

However, the 2024 presidential election will be about more than that, and will primarily focus on who Americans see as a better potential leader overall. Since it will likely come down to picking between Biden or Trump, on that measure, the person most likely to keep our democratic institutions intact — preventing the other person, who actually admires the authoritarian Putin, from taking office — is the better choice.

Russia Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

Monday, September 4, 2023

Biden Touts Strong Economy in Labor Day Statement, but Most Voters Aren't Getting the Message

In a Labor Day message to Americans on Monday, President Joe Biden touted strong jobs growth and a good economy, stating that "Bidenomics is a blue-collar blueprint for America."

Speaking to a union crowd at a parade hosted by the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Biden added:
My plan for the country is to make the economy work for people like you, because when it works for people like you, it works for everybody
The message is likely one that Biden and his re-election team are going to try to repeat over and over again this coming year, as most Americans don't seem to be feeling the positive effects of "Bidenomics" or aren't personally aware of them yet.

Polling from a recent Economist/YouGov survey finds that only 19 percent of Americans think the economy is "getting better," while 54 percent say it's "getting worse." Among independents, 62 percent say things have gone in the wrong direction.

Biden's approval rating among voters on the issue is low, too: 51 percent disapprove of his performance when it comes to jobs and the economy, while 41 percent say they approve.

By many economists' standards, the economy has improved under Biden's watch. But whether or not Americans feel that improvement, in their own lives, is another story altogether. If Biden hopes to win re-election and fend off second Donald Trump presidency, he'll have to explain to and convince those voters that they're better off now than they were before.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Dozens of White Nationalist, Neo-Nazi Flyers Found in Milwaukee Suburb

White nationalism reared its ugly head in a Milwaukee suburb this Labor Day weekend.

Dozens of flyers depicting white supremacist talking points and Nazi imagery were discovered in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, a community just a few minutes north of the city. The flyers urged residents to join a known neo-Nazi organization using hateful and bigoted language.

[P]olice recovered more than 70 illegally distributed flyers containing hate speech.


The flyer, on one side, reads "Who is working in the interest of white Americans?" The other side links to a website promoting white supremacy, displaying videos with Nazi imagery — using racist and antisemitic language.
The flyers stated they were "distributed randomly without malicious intent," and referenced the "Aryan Freedom Network," a group recognized by the ADL as a neo-Nazi organization that began in Texas but is spreading across the country.

In a statement posted on Facebook on Sunday, Village President Kevin Buckley decried the flyers, saying:
I am saddened that our community was targeted by individuals seeking attention for their hateful ideology. The Village of Whitefish Bay is committed to continuing to make Whitefish Bay an inclusive, accepting village, where all are welcomed. While the materials did not include any explicit threats, we are taking this incident seriously and the Police Department will work to enhance safety throughout the community.
Image via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Veto by Tony Evers Increases Ability of School Districts to Raise Funds Through 2425

 Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisconsin) has signed a GOP-passed budget, but with more than four dozen line-item vetoes. Among those items, Evers crossed off a hyphen and a number "0" to give schools in the state the ability to increase funding now through the year 2425.

From Wisconsin Public Radio:

Schools will get an additional $325 per student in each of the next two fiscal years under the budget approved by Republicans. In a surprise move, Evers used his line-item veto to continue the annual increase for over the next 400 years. 

And from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It's the second time Evers, a former state superintendent and public school educator, has used his partial veto authority to increase funding for public schools. 

Said Evers in his veto message:

I object to the failure of the Legislature to address the long-term financial needs of school districts. This veto makes no changes to the per pupil revenue limit adjustment provided in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years and provides school districts with predictable long-term spending authority increases.

Districts were limited in how much they could increase funding for schools each year, under a Scott Walker-era rule. Now, however, they can raise funding to a much greater degree, giving local governments more power to decide for themselves -- without state-imposed restrictions -- what's best for them.

Featured image credit: Tony Evers/Flickr

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Pence Makes Incomprehensible Comparison Between Gender-Affirming Care and Tattoos

During his CNN town hall event (seriously, we're doing more of these??), former VP Mike Pence, who announced he's running for president this week, denounced the idea of kids being able to get gender-affirming care -- even if their parents and physicians are OK with it/say they should do so.

Gender-affirming care is a wide range of health care. It can be psychology; it can be puberty blockers; it can be hormone therapy. Some states are taking action to block these types of care for transgender kids, even though cisgender teens use them frequently, too.

From HuffPost:

The former vice president told moderator Dana Bash that although he supported restoring parents’ rights in schools and ending “politically correct nonsense,” he didn’t believe a parent should be able to decide if their child should be allowed to transition or seek medical care for gender dysphoria.

“I strongly support state legislation that bans all gender transition, chemical or surgical procedures, for kids under the age of 18,” Pence said. “I’m talking as a father and I’m talking as a grandfather right now. There’s a reason you don’t let kids get a tattoo before they’re 18.”

Pence makes a weird comparison here because, well, kids in 38 states across the country RIGHT NOW can get friggin' tattoos with their parents' permission.

Oh, and just so this is out there: while only a few hundred trans teens are actually getting the kinds of surgeries Pence alludes to annually, more than 3,000 cis girls are getting breast implants each year, with their parents' permission. But for some reason, the far right is fine with that. Hmm.

But put that aside. Pence says he's all for parental rights. Except, he's not, because he's just for SOME parents' rights, it seems. You know, when it comes to parents saying they don't want books with Black history in them, or that feature LGBTQ characters, that kind of stuff.

But respecting a parent's right to decide, with their health care provider's help, that their trans children need such care? That's too far, according to the Christian nationalist.

From LGBTQ Nation:

Host Dana Bash pushed back: “I just want to be clear on this because you are so adamant about parents’ rights.”

“Right, I am,” Pence responded.

“But in this particular case, parents who say, along with the doctors, that what is best for their kids, what their kids feel most comfortable with doing, is gender transition,” Bash said. “The parents should not be allowed to do that?”

Pence did not appear to have a response ready for this fairly obvious question.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Even a Trump-Appointed Federal Judge Gets It: Drag Bans Are Wrong (and Unconstitutional)

A federal judge -- one appointed by former President Donald Trump, no less -- has ruled that the state's ban on drag show performances is unconstitutional.

From The Associated Press:

The law is both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement,” according to the ruling late Friday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

“There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law,” Parker said.

“Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech,” he said. 

Similar to other bans happening in conservative parts of the country, the Tennessee law banned "adult cabaret performances" at properties where minors might be present. 

Many drag shows, while they may be suggestive, are not overtly sexual. Parents often bring children to these entertaining performances, which is their right to decide on doing, just as it is other parents' rights to bring their kids to restaurants with scantily-clad servers, many have pointed out. Using another analogy, it's no different than a parent bringing their kid to an R-rated movie (indeed, many drag performances are tamer than that).

This ruling (read it in full here) is probably just the start: as other states and local governments enact unnecessary and bigoted drag bans, more lawsuits are likely to happen, too, finding that these laws violate performers' First Amendment rights.

Notably, although there is a distinction between trans people and drag queens, these bans also target transgender people in deeply negative and concerning ways, affecting their speech rights, too. A Native American Two-Spirit author was banned by her county government from giving a talk at a Montana library last week because of a drag ban, for example. She, too, is contemplating a lawsuit.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Legal Experts Pen 180-Page Memo Outlining Trump Prosecution Over Classified Docs Found at Mar-a-Lago

Just Security -- which bills itself as "an online forum for the rigorous analysis of security, democracy, foreign policy, and rights" -- has released what it's calling a "model prosecution memo" that details the case, so far, for prosecuting Donald Trump over his retention of classified documents.

Some quick facts, to remind you of how we got here:

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) tried for almost a year after Trump left the WH to get these docs back. At the time, during that year, it didn't know what kind of documents Trump had, only that they were government docs, which belong to the American people, not a former president. Only after the agency threatened to involve Congress in the matter did Trump and his lawyers relent, and allow NARA to collect SOME documents in early 2022.

  • After doing so, NARA noticed that some of the docs they got back had classified markings. They alerted the Department of Justice (DOJ), which later prompted the department to question Trump's lawyers further until it was determined they needed to issue a subpoena to get the remaining docs back. The subpoena was served in May of 2022, and served out in June of that year. Trump was purportedly cooperative during that subpoena, but as we find out later, he might have been trying to hide documents, too, which could render a charge of obstruction.

  • After the DOJ carried out its subpoena and retrieved what Trump and his lawyers said were all of the remaining classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, more evidence surfaced that Trump had lied to them. We know from reports, for example, that Trump had his workers move documents both prior to and after the DOJ subpoena was carried out (including on the day before officials came to Mar-a-Lago to get them). Trump was clearly not trustworthy in surrendering these documents willfully, so the FBI obtained a search warrant and retrieved them, without Trump's consent or knowledge ahead of time, in August.

  • In total, more than 300 classified documents were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago from the first retrieval in January 2022 to August 2022. A few more documents were also retrieved from a storage locker not at Mar-a-Lago later that year.

Trump has not tried to hide the fact that he had these docs in his possession. In fact, he has said that what he did was perfectly legal, suggesting that he declassified the documents automatically just by thinking about doing it on his last day as president when he removed them from the White House.

That's...not how things work, at all. There's a process for declassifying documents. And even if that IS how things COULD happen, the declassified docs would still belong to the government, not to Trump.

Anyway, back to the memo...

Just Security, in publishing its memo detailing how the DOJ could prosecute Trump, TODAY, is basing its opinion on just what's been made public knowledge, through court filings and media reports about the matter. In other words, this memo says Trump can and should be prosecuted without even knowing the things the DOJ knows that hasn't been made public yet.

No doubt, there is more information that DOJ has paints Trump in an even darker light.

From Just Security:

There is sufficient evidence to obtain and sustain a conviction here, if the information gleaned from government filings and statements and voluminous public reporting is accurate. Indeed, the DOJ is likely now, or shortly will be, internally circulating a pros memo of its own saying so.

But since the DOJ memo will likely be "highly confidential," it will probably not be made public, Just Security noted. So, the site produced their own memo, to give the public some insight into what the DOJ might be saying in their prosecutorial documents, if they're drafting them.

"Given the gravity of the issues here, our memo provides a sense of how prosecutors will assemble and evaluate the considerations that they must assess before making a prosecution decision," the website says.

The memo is extensive: if you make the time to read it, buckle in, because it's 180 pages long. The authors of the report include a number of university law professors and former federal prosecutors (some of them are both!), as well as other legal minds.

But to put it short, Just Security makes the case for prosecuting Trump based on six criteria, separated into two sections, which read:

Mishandling of Government Documents

1. Retention of National Defense Information (18 U.S.C. § 793(e))

2. Concealing Government Records (18 U.S.C. § 2071)

3. Conversion of Government Property (18 U.S.C. § 641)

Obstruction, Contempt, False Information

1. Obstruction of Justice (18 U.S.C. § 1519)

2. Criminal Contempt (18 U.S.C. § 402)

3. False Statements to Federal Investigators (18 U.S.C. § 1001)

Read more at Just Security

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

DeSantis Fanboy Elon Musk Will Host FL Gov's 2024 Announcement on Twitter Wednesday

 Ron DeSantis will announce his 2024 presidential run on Wednesday, and he's going to do it, on Twitter, with Elon Musk by his side, apparently...

via NBC News:

Musk and DeSantis will host an event on Twitter Spaces, the site’s platform for audio chats, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. It will be moderated by David Sacks, a tech entrepreneur who is a Musk confidant and DeSantis supporter. 

That same evening, the campaign will release a launch video, and DeSantis will begin visiting several early states after Memorial Day. 

There's no word yet, really, on whether this will be an official "endorsement" from Musk, but the billionaire has said in the past he would back DeSantis if he announced a run for president.

Given Musk's childish behavior on the platform and his hypocritical actions in managing it, it's probably a good bet to guess that the platform will be used many times by the Twitter owner to further DeSantis's presidential aspirations in the future, too.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Trump Calls Jack Smith "Treasonous" for Continuing Mar-a-Lago/Jan. 6 Inquiries

It was ridiculous (and blatantly wrong) for Trump to suggest, while he was president, that it was "treasonous" for anyone to investigate or criticize him.

It's even more ridiculous, now that he's a private citizen, for him to be making the same claims.

Treason, of course, is a federal crime, for which the penalty can be death. So Trump is essentially saying Smith (and any other investigator looking into his illicit actions) should be charged with a crime for doing so and possibly be killed over it, too. 

Via Raw Story:

In a late-night posting on his Truth Social platform, Donald Trump lashed out at special counsel Jack Smith for investigating him on multiple fronts and bizarrely claimed that he and his family and friends are on a "treasonous quest."

Said Trump on his fledgling social media experiment gone wrong Truth Social:

TRUMP Hating Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, whose family and friends are Big Time Haters also, will be working overtime on this treasonous quest. They are scoundrels and cheats. THIS IS ALL ABOUT ELECTION INTERFERENCE.

To be sure, most Americans are quite alright with these investigations carrying on. Most even believe Trump did something wrong.

Hopefully, he'll be held accountable for his wrongdoings, too.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Report: Trump Is Planning Politics of Paranoia/Anger If He Wins 2024 Election (Big Surprise, Right?)

Donald Trump's plans for his next presidency (if he's elected) is to go after political opponents like a paranoid madman, and pursue conspiracy theories with reckless abandon, harming millions of Americans in the process.

You know, like how he behaved in his first term in office.

From Axios:

[Trump] wants to give the president the authority to hire and fire federal workers at will — not a new idea, but now part of a broad effort to "clean out" investigators and officials he sees as disloyal or who have questioned his conduct.


Trump wants to fire "radical left" officials who accredit universities, reward schools that abolish tenure for teachers, eliminate many college administrators and remove diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.


He's vowing to get rid of "Marxist prosecutors " and create an auditing system to monitor U.S. intelligence agencies “to ensure they are not spying on our citizens."

And no Trump policy statement would be complete without an attack on LGBTQ people, particularly trans individuals seeking life-saving health care treatments.

He wants DOJ to investigate Big Pharma and the big hospital networks to determine whether they have "deliberately covered up the long-term side-effects of 'sex transitions.'" He also wants to boot hospitals or providers from Medicaid and Medicare if they offer gender-affirming care.

Read more at Axios.

And read (via The Guardian) why one Republican U.S. Senator doesn't think Trump can win in 2024 (hint: he's going to lose swing states because of his brazenness and politics of anger). 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Fani Willis Is Giving Us Huge Hints That She's Going to Charge Trump in August

Fulton County AG Fani Willis -- who is overseeing the investigation into former President Donald Trump's attempts to improperly overturn the Georgia election results in the 2020 presidential race -- may have indicated when she will issue charges against him and his allies who sought to do the same.

From The New York Times:

The Georgia prosecutor leading an investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his allies has taken the unusual step of announcing remote work days for most of her staff during the first three weeks of August, asking judges in a downtown Atlanta courthouse not to schedule trials for part of that time as she prepares to bring charges in the inquiry.

The moves suggest that [Willis] is expecting a grand jury to unseal indictments during that time period.

And from The Guardian:

Willis made no explicit mention of Trump during the meeting, but the specific timing is understood to reflect the expected window for indictments after previous indications suggested charging decisions would come during the court term that runs July to September.

This investigation represents the most likely one (among the many Trump is currently facing) to result in Trump being held accountable for his illegal attempts to remain president, after he so clearly lost in the 2020 race. It is illegal for any person to try and coerce, convince, or threaten an elections official, in the state of Georgia, to engage in election fraud.

Trump clearly did so -- audio recording of him, in a conversation with State Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in late 2020, showed that Trump demanded he "find" him enough votes to "win" -- and threatened Raffensperger and his lawyer with legal repercussions if he did not do so.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Marjorie Taylor Greene's Impeachment Claims Against Biden are Bogus

 Let's talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene's planned articles of impeachment for Joe Biden.

Greene announced her intention to file articles of impeachment against Biden on Thursday, saying her reason for doing so -- which, will go nowhere, given that the slim GOP majority in the House, let alone the Dem majority in the Senate, won't advance it -- is that he's been bad at securing the border, and hence, has failed to live up to the oath of his office.

A few things here...

A) The oath the president takes, stipulated by the Constitution, is as follows:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

To prove that Biden violated that pledge requires Greene to provide evidence that he didn't protect the U.S. on purpose. Even if he failed to protect the border, that's not really grounds for impeachment, especially on the basis that his actions violated his presidential oath. Failure to do something doesn't mean you didn't try to faithfully live up to the duties you're entrusted with.

For what it's worth, Biden's border policies are equal to, if not, WORSE than, Trump's, in terms of how they treat migrants with dignity. Greene frequently states that she believes Trump did a better job than Biden on border and immigration matters, but Title 42 (under Trump) and Biden's new immigration policies are very similar. So how, exactly, does she want Biden to lead on the issue?

Regardless of that, being upset with someone over a policy they enact, believing that they're doing it wrong, is not an acceptable reason to impeach someone. Which brings us to the next point...

B) Presidents can be impeached for a limited (but also kinda vague?) number of reasons. 

The Constitution states that they can be removed from office for issues relating to "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Republicans defended Trump against his two impeachments by saying he didn't commit any "high crimes and misdemeanors." That term, however, when it was adopted by the founders more than two centuries ago, wasn't meant to be literal -- it meant, in a general sense, an abuse of power by someone in the executive branch. 

Now, suddenly, Greene and others of the same mind as her are perfectly fine with the broad-based interpretation of that standard.

What constitutes an abuse of power is left pretty vague. But again, Greene isn't alleging an abuse of power -- she's saying that Biden is acting in a way, as president, that she disagrees with. 


Greene's impeachment plans shouldn't be taken seriously. Hell, she's already laid out four articles of impeachment against executive branch officials this week alone, not even counting the one she's planning to do for Biden. She is, in short, seeking to use Congress's impeachment powers for her own political gains. 

The White House has called Greene's planned impeachment filings a "stunt." They're exactly right.

Jim Jordan Furious at Judiciary Dems for Pointing Out He Doesn't Know Cmte Rules

Jim Jordan doesn't want to abide by the committee rules of the very committee he oversees. I'd say this is shocking behavior, but because it's Jim Jordan, it's not really shocking at all.

From The Daily Beast:

Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) repeatedly denied Democrats’ requests to receive the testimony of one of the GOP’s self-described “whistleblowers” during Thursday’s House hearing on the “weaponization” of the FBI...


Jordan told Democrats that “you’re not getting the testimony” of FBI staff operations specialist Marcus Allen, claiming the minority party isn’t entitled to all evidence collected from whistleblowers.

Democrats familiar with the rules of the committee -- as well as the legal definition of "whistleblower" -- put Jordan in his place.Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY)

“These are not whistleblowers,” Ranking Member Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) exclaimed. “The law has not determined they are whistleblowers. His attorney is just asserting that.”

Democrats called a "point of order" to showcase just how wrong Jordan was in refusing to, you know, follow the rules of the committee.

Later in the hearing, after initially being shut down by Jordan, Goldman requested a point of order to state the rules, which he noted required transcripts to be made available to all members of committees.

“Where is the whistleblower exception to the rules?” Goldman wondered.

An animated Jordan said it was the “prerogative of the committee to decide” before adding: “We have the whistleblower testimony. The whistleblower does not wish it to be made available to the Democrats at this time!”

Goldman quickly shot back that “the whistleblower doesn’t make committee rules” before Jordan attempted to move on to another committee member...

More at The Daily Beast

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

WI Lawmaker Wants to Bring DeSantis-Style Politics (and Book Bans) to the State

State Rep. Scott Allen (R) wants to give parents the ability to sue school districts for books they believe are "obscene." The move to do so would mirror what Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans have done in Florida, inevitably leading to book bans and more problems here that are regularly seen in the Sunshine State.

Allen proposes two bills in a recent press release he published.

From Business Insider:

The first bill recommends that the state strip school employees and teachers of their protections against prosecution for "displaying obscene material," the release says. The other bill would prohibit the use of public funds to purchase "obscene material."

Allen pretends his proposal is innocuous. "When you look at the definition of obscene material in state statute, there is no reason for that type of material to be in our schools," he said.

Obscenity is indeed defined by state law as material that "the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find appeals to the prurient interest if taken as a whole; under contemporary community standards, describes or shows sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, educational or scientific value, if taken as a whole."

Allen says in his presser that he wants "to ensure that students are not encountering sexually explicit material in school." That same excuse, however, has been used to justify expansive book bans, as bigoted individuals in Florida, for example, have threatened schools with lawsuits over books that simply depict gay characters who aren't engaged in sexual acts at all. 

Don't be fooled: Allen and other Republicans are hoping to bring that kind of DeSantis-style politics to Wisconsin, too, to allow transphobic and homophobic community members the opportunity to ban books and make this state less welcoming for LGBTQ students. It's par for the course for the GOP, after all...

Missouri HS Student Gets Suspended for Filming Teacher Using N-Word in Class

 A 15-year-old student in Springfield, Missouri, was suspended for filming her teacher using the n-word, repeatedly, in class.

I kid you not. From The Washington Post:

Mary Walton thought her teacher repeatedly saying a racist slur in class last week was wrong, so the 15-year-old sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., pulled out her phone and started filming, the student’s lawyer said.


“Put your phone away,” he told her, according to video reviewed by The Washington Post.

“No,” Mary said.

“Then go to the office,” he responded.

Days later, she was suspended for making the 55-second video, according to her lawyer.

Walton's lawyer makes a compelling case for why the action taken by the school was wrong  that it essentially tells kids to sit back and do nothing when something so egregiously wrong happens.

Via Essence:

[Walton's lawyer Natalie] Hull stated, “This kid did what we want people to do — see something, say something,” continuing, “Now we’re telling students, ‘If you see something, don’t show it, because then you’ll get suspended.’”

But the school district disagrees. On Monday, the school's principal said he was "confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters" relating to the suspension in the right way.

"When students have concerns they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting," Principal Josh Groves said, implying that documenting the actual thing they're concerned with isn't one of those "appropriate steps."

Importantly, the teacher in question is "no longer employed" by the district. That's great. But what's not so great is punishing the person who brought forward, with evidence, the bad behavior of that teacher in the first place.

That student should be commended, not suspended.

Even a Majority of Trump-Voters Say Abortion Bans Have Gone Too Far

Nobody is liking any of these state bans/severe restrictions on abortion, except for far-right zealots and ideologues who view the issue in black-and-white terms, where only their opinions matter (and the rights of others don't).

From NARAL Pro Choice America, which conducted a poll on abortion views in conjuction with Change Research:

Seventy-three percent of voters nationwide, including a majority of 2020 Trump voters, 3 in 4 independents, and 55% of white rural men believe things have gone too far [when it comes to post-Roe abortion restrictions]. These findings come as 19 states have eliminated or restricted access because of abortion bans, and anti-choice extremists continue to push for a national ban.

Fifty-one percent of people who voted for Donald Trump even say that abortion bans happening now are too much.

Overall, 58 percent of respondents from all political backgrounds agree that these bans are dangerous. (And they're right, too.)

Elon Musk Falsely Claims White Supremacist Mass Shooter Wasn't a White Supremacist

In true Elon Musk fashion, the Tesla CEO and Twitter owner downplayed the white supremacy beliefs that the Allen, Texas, mass shooter had. Said Musk (per reporting from Rolling Stone):

“I think it was incorrectly ascribed to be a white supremacist action,” Musk said, claiming that Bellingcat’s discovery of a social media profile outlining his beliefs was not credible. “Have you heard what Bellingcat does? Psyops.” Musk added. 

Of course, the shooter's far-right and extremist beliefs have been well documented. The guy even has "SS" lightning bolt and swastika tattoos, for crying out loud.

More from Rolling Stone:

Documents from the FBI and other officials have unveiled the shooter posted neo-Nazi content. Police have confirmed that photos of the shooters swastika and “SS” tattoos circulating on social media were genuine, and said the investigation has established that he harbored “neo-Nazi ideation.”

And from The Verge, which points out that this isn't the first time Musk has put out false information defending far-right individuals or espousing their talking points:

Musk’s comments about the shooting were part of an escalating series of messages that echo right-wing talking points. In the interview he similarly defended comments claiming billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories, “hates humanity.” Last year he also shared a widely dismissed conspiracy theory about the motives for an attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi. 

Key Attorney for Trump in Mar-a-Lago Docs Case Bolts

Timothy Parlatore, an attorney for Donald Trump who represented him in the ongoing Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, has left the former president's legal team.

From CNN:

Parlatore’s departure became official Tuesday, though it had been rumored for several weeks among the former president’s inner circle. The high-profile departure comes as special counsel Jack Smith appears to be in the final stretch of investigations into the possible mishandling of classified documents and efforts to obstruct the 2020 election.


Parlatore’s exit is notable given he was the attorney who organized searches for additional classified documents last year at Trump Tower, Trump’s properties in Bedminster, Mar-a-Lago, an office in Palm Beach and a Florida storage unit.

And from CBS:

Parlatore was also among the lawyers who sent a letter to Congress asking it to tell the Justice department to "stand down" on the documents probe. In the letter, Trump's legal team suggested the former president's departure from the White House after the election was hastily conducted and staff "simply swept all documents from the President's desk and other areas into boxes" that were then moved to Florida. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Did CNN-Trump Town Hall Help Biden in New Poll? (He Leads Trump by 6 Points)

We're still a year and a half away from the next presidential election, but we already know the two most likely people to become the Democratic and Republican parties' nominees — current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, respectively.

Polling on the race is already showing it will likely be a close one. As of May 7, the RealClearPolitics average of polls had Trump actually slightly ahead of Biden, though his lead was within the margin of error for the polls taken.

Today, however, is different — a new Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden leading Trump, by around the same margin he won the 2020 presidential election.

From Reuters:

Among registered voters, Biden led Trump, his predecessor as president, by six percentage points in a hypothetical match-up, 44% to 38%

What's changed? Aside from some interviews he's done with far-right networks, Trump really hasn't been making appearances in mainstream media over the past year. He's been silent on Twitter, and while his thoughts are accessible on Truth Social, the media aren't really reporting on them (they should be, tbh).

But CNN's disastrous town hall with Trump last week made headlines on every news site, and made Trump the talk of the water cooler the day after it aired. It was unavoidable to know what Trump had said — and he said a lot of unhinged things, ranging from calling host Kaitlan Collins "nasty," to possibly defaming E. Jean Carroll once again while blasting her and the lawsuit she won against him alleging he sexually assaulted her.

It's possible that the town hall, as bad as it was, helped make Trump the less popular option between him and Biden — the poll was conducted from May 9-15, and the town hall aired on May 9. 

We can't really know for sure, but as Trump becomes more accessible (along with his big mouth), we should expect more polls to show distaste for him, barring Biden doing something completely out of line.