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)