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Latest Featured Reports | Sunday, July 25, 2021
Break Them Up!
AntiTrust To the Rescue: 'BradCast' 7/23/21
Guest Host Nicole Sandler with author/journalist Cory Doctorow...
Another Cuban Crisis:
'BradCast' 7/22/21
Guest host Nicole Sandler with journalist and author Anthony DePalma...
'Green News Report' 7/22/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Catastrophic flooding in central Chinese; Health alerts from Western wildfires triggered as far as the East Coast; PLUS: Utility giant PG&E finally pledges to bury its power lines...
Previous GNRs: 7/20/21 - 7/15/21 - Archives...
'Our Darkest Hour, Our Selma Moment...We Must Act': 'BradCast' 7/21/21
Guest: Voting rights champion Helen Butler, after her GOP removal as a GA election official; Also: Tragic ends for COVID deniers; More clues AZ's election 'auditers' are clueless...
Fact-Checking Right (Phony AZ 'Audit') and Left (Garland's DoJ): 'BradCast' 7/20/21
Also: Chair of Trump Inaugural Committee, Tom Barrack, arrested, charged with acting as foreign agent, lying to FBI...
'Green News Report' 7/20/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Europe flooding shows nowhere safe from our climate emergency; Parts of Amazon now emit more carbon than they absorb; PLUS: High-tide flooding is about to get much, much worse...
Previous GNRs: 7/15/21 - 7/13/21 - Archives...
Callers Explain Their Refusal to Get Vaccinated as Deadly Delta Variant Surges: 'BradCast' 7/19/21
Also: New analysis finds fewer than 200 POTENTIAL cases of voter fraud in AZ...
Sunday 'Critical Erase Theory' Toons
PDiddie's latest collection of the best, unavoidable, toons of the week...
Critical Failure in Coverage of RW 'Critical Race Theory' Hoax: 'BradCast' 7/16/21
Guest: Media analyst Eric Boehlert; Also: Masks back on in L.A. County; Deadly climate change-fueled deluge in Germany...
The REAL Cost of the Maricopa, AZ 'Audit': 'BradCast' 7/15/21
Also: GOPers laughing at, thanking Manchin, Sinema; Good news on Dem infrastructure bill; Trump's COVID Death Cult rising...
'Green News Report' 7/15/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Senate Dems unveil $3.5 trillion infrastructure and climate deal; EU unveils landmark 'Green Deal'; PLUS: More evidence that climate action would save lives and money...
Previous GNRs: 7/13/21 - 7/8/21 - Archives...
EAC Sued Over Guidelines After Secret Meets with E-Vote Vendors Allows Modems: 'BradCast' 7/14/21
Guest: FSFP's Susan Greenhalgh; Also: Dems' $3.5T health, climate, infrastructure deal...
'Test of Our Time': Biden Steps Up for Voting Rights, Democracy: 'BradCast' 7/13/21
Also: 2020 Election Night genesis of the 'Big Lie'; Heroic TX Dems land in D.C. to press for federal reform...
'Green News Report' 7/13/21
Western grid tested by massive fires, more extreme heat; CA expands state drought emergency; June 2021 hottest ever in U.S.; PLUS: Fox to launch a weather channel...
Amid CA Emergencies, State GOP Tries to Oust Dem Guv in Recall: 'BradCast' 7/12
Guest: Ernie Canning on reforming CA's Recall process; Also: TX DEMS FLEE STATE TO BLOCK GOP VOTE-SUPPRESSION BILL...
Sunday 'Delta is Ready' Toons
PDiddie is ready when you are, with his latest collection of the week's best (and worst!) political toons...
SCOTUS' Disregard of Constitution's Plain Text Augurs Dark Days: 'BradCast' 7/9/21
Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern on Alito's 'fabricated' rules for the VRA and much more...
Now May Be a Good Time to Reform or Eliminate CA's Gubernatorial Recall System
CANNING: GOP abuse of the time-honored progressive process is wearing thin...
COVID Surge in Trump Country; US (Almost) Out of Afghanistan: 'BradCast' 7/8/21
Also: Rudy's woes worsen; U.S., Canada heat wave kills 100s; Murdoch's Fox 'News' broke the nation and planet...
'Green News Report' 7/8/21
While we were out...Historic heat wave killed hundreds, shattered all time records in PNW, Canada; Exxon lobbyists caught on tape; PLUS: Record-breaker Elsa...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

Criminal GOP Voter Registration Fraud Probe Expanding in VA
State investigators widening criminal probe of man arrested destroying registration forms, said now looking at violations of law by Nathan Sproul's RNC-hired firm...

DOJ PROBE SOUGHT AFTER VA ARREST
Arrest of RNC/Sproul man caught destroying registration forms brings official calls for wider criminal probe from compromised VA AG Cuccinelli and U.S. AG Holder...

Arrest in VA: GOP Voter Reg Scandal Widens
'RNC official' charged on 13 counts, for allegely trashing voter registration forms in a dumpster, worked for Romney consultant, 'fired' GOP operative Nathan Sproul...

ALL TOGETHER: ROVE, SPROUL, KOCHS, RNC
His Super-PAC, his voter registration (fraud) firm & their 'Americans for Prosperity' are all based out of same top RNC legal office in Virginia...

LATimes: RNC's 'Fired' Sproul Working for Repubs in 'as Many as 30 States'
So much for the RNC's 'zero tolerance' policy, as discredited Republican registration fraud operative still hiring for dozens of GOP 'Get Out The Vote' campaigns...

'Fired' Sproul Group 'Cloned', Still Working for Republicans in At Least 10 States
The other companies of Romney's GOP operative Nathan Sproul, at center of Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, still at it; Congressional Dems seek answers...

FINALLY: FOX ON GOP REG FRAUD SCANDAL
The belated and begrudging coverage by Fox' Eric Shawn includes two different video reports featuring an interview with The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman...

COLORADO FOLLOWS FLORIDA WITH GOP CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Repub Sec. of State Gessler ignores expanding GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, rants about evidence-free 'Dem Voter Fraud' at Tea Party event...

CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO GOP VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL IN FL
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms 'enough evidence to warrant full-blown investigation'; Election officials told fraudulent forms 'may become evidence in court'...

Brad Breaks PA Photo ID & GOP Registration Fraud Scandal News on Hartmann TV
Another visit on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture with new news on several developing Election Integrity stories...

CAUGHT ON TAPE: COORDINATED NATIONWIDE GOP VOTER REG SCAM
The GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal reveals insidious nationwide registration scheme to keep Obama supporters from even registering to vote...

CRIMINAL ELECTION FRAUD COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GOP 'FRAUD' FIRM
Scandal spreads to 11 FL counties, other states; RNC, Romney try to contain damage, split from GOP operative...

RICK SCOTT GETS ROLLED IN GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sends blistering letter to Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanding bi-partisan reg fraud probe in FL; Slams 'shocking and hypocritical' silence, lack of action...

VIDEO: Brad Breaks GOP Reg Fraud Scandal on Hartmann TV
Breaking coverage as the RNC fires their Romney-tied voter registration firm, Strategic Allied Consulting...

RNC FIRES NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FIRM FOR FRAUD
After FL & NC GOP fire Romney-tied group, RNC does same; Dead people found reg'd as new voters; RNC paid firm over $3m over 2 months in 5 battleground states...

EXCLUSIVE: Intvw w/ FL Official Who First Discovered GOP Reg Fraud
After fraudulent registration forms from Romney-tied GOP firm found in Palm Beach, Election Supe says state's 'fraud'-obsessed top election official failed to return call...

GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD FOUND IN FL
State GOP fires Romney-tied registration firm after fraudulent forms found in Palm Beach; Firm hired 'at request of RNC' in FL, NC, VA, NV & CO...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


Also: Chair of Trump Inaugural Committee, Tom Barrack, arrested, charged with acting as foreign agent, lying to FBI...
By Brad Friedman on 7/20/2021 6:44pm PT  

Among the many sad legacies of the awful Donald Trump years, is how angry everyone has become in its wake. For always-angry Trumpers, ticking off "the libs" is a feature, not a bug. For progressives, however, while there is much to be justifiably angry about, we are wise to hold our outrage for points that actually matter...and happen to be true. We've got plenty of both on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

First up, shortly before airtime today, the Dept. of Justice arrested and charged Trump's longtime friend, advisor and top fund-riser, Tom Barrack, who chaired the disgraced former President's corrupt Inaugural Committee in 2017. Barrack was charged on seven federal counts, including using his access to Trump to lobby for the United Arab Emirates and lying about it to federal agents. As an unregistered agent for the UAE, Barack allegedly lobbied both the Trump Campaign and Administration on their behalf, joining a growing list of Trump friends, officials and associates found to have unlawfully lobbied the so-called "America First" Administration on behalf of foreign nations like Turkey, Ukraine and the UAE, before lying about it to the FBI.

In other news out of Joe Biden's Dept. of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland, on Monday, issued a new policy prohibiting federal prosecutors from seizing phone, text and email records from journalists, with a few reasonable exceptions. While the Obama Administration did some of that, the Trump Administration took it to new heights, secretly spying on reporters at Washington Post, New York Times and CNN --- as well as Democratic members of Congress, their aides and even their family members --- all considered (by Trump) to be his political enemies. Freedom of Press advocates applauded Garland's "historic" Monday memo [PDF], as the A.G. also called for federal legislation to buttress the new DoJ policy.

That rather important story was somewhat overshadowed on Monday, however, by outrage from the progressive Left over a misreported story about the DoJ's failure to file charges against Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross who, the agency's Inspector General found, lied twice to Congress about his roll in unsuccessfully attempting to add a question on immigration status to the 2020 U.S. Census. After the IG's investigation, which began in 2019, the office referred the matter to the DoJ for criminal prosecution.

Progressives were up in arms yesterday after it was inaccurately reported by several legit outlets, including Government Executive and AP, that Biden's DoJ, under the direction of A.G. Garland, had declined to prosecute Ross. However, as both outlets later acknowledged with corrections to their stories, it was actually the Trump DoJ which refused to prosecute Ross. He was at least the fifth Trump Cabinet member to have been referred for criminal prosecution to Trump's corrupt DoJ. (The others include his Interior Dept. chief Ryan Zinke, his HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Trump's second Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Robert Wilkie and his Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who happens to be Mitch McConnell's wife. They all skated.) Whether Biden's A.G. can or will revive those recommendations to bring charges is a separate matter --- and there is plenty of other stuff to be disappointed and/or outraged about regarding some of Garland's seemingly inscrutable decisions since taking the helm at the Department --- but the outrage on Monday from progressives over the declination to charge Ross appears to have been both premature and misdirected.

Next, speaking of fact-checking and going off half-cocked (or, in Trump's case, fully-cocked), late last week, Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the rightwing, conspiracy-promoting company contracted by the Arizona state Republican Senate to carry out a post-election "forensic audit" of Maricopa County (Phoenix)'s 2.1 million ballots cast last year, offered public testimony on the progress of his three-month (and continuing) efforts to date.

Logan's remarks vividly demonstrated the dangers of hiring someone who knows absolutely nothing about elections or voting systems (or audits, for that matter) to carry out, in secret, what should have been a fully public exercise. It has been referred to as a "fraudit" and clown show by critics, including both Republican and Democratic state and county officials.

The former President offered three statements on Logan's remarks over the ensuing two days, the most detailed of which charged, falsely, that Logan's testimony "showed 168,000 fraudulent ballots printed on illegal paper (unofficial ballots), 74,000 mail in ballots received that were never mailed (magically appearing ballots), 11,000 voters were added to the voter rolls AFTER the election and still voted, all the access logs to the machines were wiped, and the election server was hacked during the election."

You'll be shocked to learn that absolutely NONE of Trump's claims are actually true.

Over the weekend, AP, CNN and others published lengthy fact-checks responding to the false claims by Logan and the wildly inaccurate nonsense from Trump. Today, we walk through some of false claims, detailing how both Trump and Logan got pretty much everything completely wrong, in the state where Joe Biden was certified by the Republican Governor to have defeated Trump by more than 10,400 votes last November. To date, there has been zero legitimate evidence to suggest otherwise in AZ or any of the other several states that flipped in 2020 from Republican to Democratic after four hellish years of the failed Trump Presidency.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with news on last week's catastrophic flooding in Germany and Central Europe, wildfires continuing to explode in the parched U.S. West, and disturbing news regarding both the Amazon rainforest and the near future of high-tide flooding...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Election security expert Susan Greenhalgh of plaintiff Free Speech for People; Also: Senate Dems announce deal for 'transformative' $3.5 trillion health care, climate, infrastructure package...
By Brad Friedman on 7/14/2021 6:28pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Senate Dems strike a very big deal and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission gets sued again, this time for rolling back voting system standards after secret, unlawful meetings with the manufacturers they are supposed to be regulating. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

First up, in what is being reported as potentially "transformative" legislation for the country, Senate Democrats on Tuesday night announced they had come to an agreement on a deal that would invest $3.5 trillion into the expansion of Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, child care and a host of other "human infrastructure" priorities, while also addressing climate change with a broad array of clean energy incentives. The blueprint for the agreement still lacks specific legislative language, but was struck after weeks of work in the Senate Budget Committee chaired by Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Democratic Committee members, such as centrist Mark Warner of Virginia, are also said to be on board with the package, which would be paid for by increased taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year and on large corporations. If all Senate Dems agree to the final bill and no more than 4 Democrats defect in the House, the measure could be adopted under Senate Reconciliation rules with a simple majority vote without the need for any Republicans.

Passage of that package, along with adoption of the smaller bipartisan nearly $600 billion proposal recently hashed out among moderate Senators on more traditional infrastructure spending, such as for roads and bridges, would amount to a massive victory for Democrats (presuming Republicans do not renege on their part of the agreement) and, more importantly, for jobs, families the climate and the American people as a whole. It would be the largest such spending package since the New Deal. We walk through some of the reported details of the new reconciliation package and what it may mean for Americans before the 2022 mid-term elections.

And, speaking of elections, earlier this year we reported on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s secret and unlawful meetings last year with voting system vendors, as discovered by SUSAN GREENHALGH, longtime election integrity advocate and Senior Advisor on Election Security at the non-partisan government watchdog group, Free Speech for People (FSFP). As she revealed at the time, the EAC's meetings, even with vendors, are all supposed to be public, according to the federal Help American Vote Act (HAVA). Her group was forced to sue to make the EAC cough up emails and other records detailing the secret vendor meetings. Most disturbingly, the EAC's Commissioners made alarming changes to newly drafted voting system certification guidelines just after those meetings.

The EAC is the federal agency responsible for creating certification guidelines for the nation's voting and tabulation systems. After a painstaking 5-year process in public consultation with technical advisors and other experts, the final draft of the much-needed and long-awaited Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 was released last year. It included, among other important elements, a ban on wireless modems in voting and tabulation systems. Cybersecurity experts applauded the provision, after long warning of the dangers of such devices in systems that register, record and tabulate the nation's votes.

After the EAC's secret meetings with voting system vendors last year, however, the agency weakened the new guidelines --- removing, for instance, the ban against wireless modems --- and revealed an amended, watered-down version just days before Commissioners voted for final approval of the new standards. Experts were stunned. Now Greenhalgh's FSFP is suing the EAC again, along with co-plaintiff Philip Stark, an elections expert from UC-Berkeley and a member of the EAC's own Board of Advisors (as well as a recent guest on this program). The complaint [PDF] calls for the EAC to roll back the last minute changes made to the guidelines after they secretly met with the voting system manufacturers.

Greenhalgh joins us to explain all of this latest madness, what it could mean for election security, why the EAC made these changes and continue to roll over for the vendors they are supposed to be regulating, and to discuss the perils of the woeful EAC's under-handed changes at a time when cyberattacks are on the rise and confidence in election results (justifiably or not) is plummeting.

"Rather than being an independent source of information regarding voting systems, the EAC is going to the vendors to ask them the questions and understand how the systems work. And, of course, the vendors aren't going to say, 'Yeah, this is highly insecure, we shouldn't be doing this,'" Greenhalgh explains.

"It's mind blowing to me," Greenhalgh tells me, when I ask if the EAC Commissioners fully understand the security risks involved in allowing the modems that vendors want in their systems (for reasons she also explains.) "You would think they'd want to err on the side of caution, they would want to err on the side of security. And if there was a good reason to allow this, then why not have this process out in the open where they can make the case to the public as to why 'we think this is a secure way to go.'? Instead they did the whole thing behind closed doors, in a super shady manner. Doesn't engender a lot of confidence." 

Finally today, in addition to the Dems' massive new infrastructure proposal announced on Tuesday night, Senate Democrats also unveiled a long-overdue, landmark proposal to finally legalize cannabis at the federal level. That bill, however, will require some Republicans to come aboard for passage, so we'll see how it goes...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Also: Rudy's woes worsen; Heat wave kills hundreds in U.S. and Canada; How Rupert Murdoch's Fox 'News' broke the nation and the planet...
By Brad Friedman on 7/8/2021 6:34pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we're still trying to clean up the deadly mess from the past four years of Donald Trump and the nearly 20 since 9/11. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below summary.]

Among our stories today...

  • More bad news for Rudy Giuliani, after he was foolish enough to throw away whatever shreds were left of his reputation in order to serve as the attorney for a well known con-man. Oh, well. In addition to facing a federal probe for his foreign work on behalf of Donald Trump, facing two different billion dollar defamation suits by voting machine companies he lied about, facing lawsuits from members of Congress for having helped to incite the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and seeing his law license suspended in New York for having lied on Trump's behalf that the 2020 election was stolen, Rudy has just had his law license suspended in Washington D.C. for the same reasons. Womp womp.
  • In significantly sadder news, even as COVID infections and deaths continue to plummet in much of the country, both are now spiking in pockets of Trump Country where his duped followers are refusing to get vaccinated. Missouri has now become the nation's hotspot, with infections rates up nearly 50 percent across the state, but much higher in the farthest rightwing pockets of the state, where there is a shortage of ventilators and respiratory specialists to handle the surge. Infection rates have spiked more than 70 percent in some areas of the Show-Me State, and include hospitalizations for a number of patients in their 20s and 30s as the Delta variant grows in dominance. Hospital officials fear the numbers may get far worse over the next week or so, in the wake of the 4th of July holiday weekend. What are state officials doing about it? Republican Governor Mike Parson just signed a law passed by the GOP-dominated state legislature to shield businesses and churches from COVID-related lawsuits.
  • Correctly describing it as an "unwinnable war", President Biden announced that all U.S. combat troops would be out of Afghanistan no later than the end of August, somewhat earlier than his announced plans of leaving the war-torn nation by this year's 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He spoke to criticism from those who believe he's pulling out from America's longest war too soon, with the Taliban already taking back control of the country as the U.S. leaves. "How many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?,” Biden asked, adding: "I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome." He also vowed to help safely evacuate thousands of Afghani translators, drivers and others who assisted the U.S. mission, as they now face certain danger from the Taliban. And he took questions from the press about whether 2,300 Americans deaths, more than 20,000 U.S. casualties and more than a trillion tax-payer dollars spent on the conflict over the past 20 years was all worth it. We share some of his remarks today.
  • After breaking the nation, the world and arguably the planet itself (with years of climate change denialism), Rupert Murdoch's Fox "News" will soon be expanding to break the weather as well. "People are hungry for more information about what the hell is going on with the weather because of climate change," Desi Doyen notes today. "So now you can get not only rightwing media news, you can get your rightwing weather, that will tell you only things about the weather that you want to hear!"
  • But now, at least one very long time former Fox executive close to Murdoch is speaking out against his old boss for "the real damage that Fox News is doing to America." That includes "the unnecessary deaths of many Americans" fueled by sowing doubt about COVID-19 and spreading lies about the 2020 Presidential election. "Fox News has caused many millions of Americans --- most of them Republicans (as my wife and I were for 50 years) --- to believe things that simply are not true," writes Preston Padden at the Daily Beast this week, after decades at Murdoch's network, where worked closely with its now 90-year old CEO since the company's inception in the 1980s.
  • Finally, its our first Green News Report since returning from our July 4th break, after a week of record smashing temps in the Pacifica Northwest and Canada which killed hundreds, to the record breaking Elsa which stormed ashore in Florida on Wednesday and is wreaking havoc up the Eastern Seaboard today. Plus, a whole lot of both disturbing and encouraging climate news items for us to get caught up with after taking last week off...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Former Asst. U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eliason on NY indictments of Trump Organization, CFO Weisselberg, and what's next; Also: Trump files 'asinine' lawsuit against social media companies, stiffs Giuliani...
By Brad Friedman on 7/7/2021 5:54pm PT  

Last week, New York prosecutors filed multiple criminal indictments against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg in response to an alleged "sweeping and audacious" 15-year tax fraud scheme. Today, Donald Trump himself filed a lawsuit against social media companies for banning him after he used his accounts to incite an attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Today on The BradCast, we discuss both issues and more, including our conversation with a former Asst. U.S. Attorney who is dubious about the legal expert consensus that NY prosecutors plan to file additional charges against other "senior executives" at the Trump Organization. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

First up, Trump's new lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were announced on Wednesday, with the disgraced former President claiming that his First Amendment rights are being violated by the private companies who no longer allow him to use their platforms to lie about last year's election and to incite violence. The First Amendment, however, does not apply to private companies. It applies to the Government. In fact, as one legal expert notes today, "Trump has the First Amendment argument exactly wrong. In fact, Facebook and Twitter themselves have a First Amendment free speech right to determine what speech their platforms project and amplify --- and that right includes excluding speakers who incite violence."

It was next to impossible to find coverage of the lawsuit today which quoted any legal expert unrelated to the suit or the disgraced former President, who supported Trump's legal theory. Even Fox "News" quoted a libertarian lawyer describing the complaint as "asinine".

While it's unclear who is footing the legal bill for Trump's latest legal folly, seemingly meant to further hoax his gullible "conservative" supporters into believing they are all "victims" of political censorship by "radical left" giant social media companies, we're almost certain that Rudy Giuliani will no longer be lending his efforts. A new book by Michael Wolff documents Trump's rage over losing to Joe Biden last year, and claims that he is now unwilling to pay Giuliani for his legal work in criss-crossing the country to claim, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. That, as Rudy has now had his law license suspended in New York for his false legal claims about the election; is facing a federal investigation for his foreign lobbying work on behalf of Trump; and is named in billion dollar lawsuits by the Dominion Voting System [PDF] company for myriad lies about their products.

But Trump, of course, is facing his own legal problems as well, including the 10 criminal indictments filed against his company last week, along with 15 counts against his longtime Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg. The indictments, which include charges such as Scheme to Defraud; Conspiracy; Grand Larceny; Criminal Tax Fraud; and Falsifying of Business Records, stem from what prosecutors describe as a tax fraud scheme that includes more than a million dollars in off-the-books compensation for apartments, cars, and school tuition for Weisselberg and others, "orchestrated by the most senior executives” at the Trump Organization from 2005 until this year.

In the wake of last week's charges, many legal experts have argued the indictments suggest more charges will be coming, as part of the ongoing two year investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and NY Attorney General Letitia James --- perhaps even for "senior executives" named Trump. Our guest today, however, former Asst. U.S. Attorney RANDALL D. ELIASON of George Washington University Law School, disagrees. At least, he is dubious.

In the days both before and after last week's indictments, Eliason suggested on Twitter that if NY ended up charging Trump's company along with Weisselberg, that would be a signal that there is not, in fact, more charges to come, as many have speculated.

Eliason, an expert in White Collar Criminal Law and a frequent contributor to Washington Post and his own Sidebars Blog, describes the charges against Weisselberg --- who allegedly received more than $1.7 million in untaxed, off-the-books compensation and stiffed city, state and federal governments for at least $900,000 --- as a very "serious case" indeed. He explains why nobody should be fooled by "Attorneys for Weisselberg and the Trump Organization [who] have tried to downplay these as just a 'fringe benefits' case, to make it sound as though it's about the company maybe just failing to report something."

He notes, in particular, prosecutors claims that the company was "keeping two sets of books" to hide their "tax fraud scheme". Eliason says this suggests a "very deliberate" effort to defraud that "makes it pretty hard to claim that it was just a mistake or a misunderstanding about the complicated tax code," as Trump implied during a rally in Sarasota, Florida over the weekend. (That, by way of stark contrast with his boast at a 2016 rally when he declared: "I know more about taxes than human being that God ever created!")

Eliason offers a great deal of insight into what these charges mean and how serious they are. Still, he goes on to argue that, in his opinion, unless prosecutors manage to flip Weisselberg --- which he believes would have already happened if Weisselberg was flippable --- that it is unlikely there will be further charges against others in the case.

"Failing cooperation by Weisselberg," he tells me, "the fact that they included the company [in the indictments] makes me think, if he doesn't flip, that's all we're going to have. Because otherwise you hold off on the company, you isolate Weisselberg, and if you bring cases against other individuals, with or without Weisselberg, that just makes the case against the company stronger. Because the company is only liable vicariously through the actions of its agents. So you don't charge the company now if you think there's more to come."

I challenge Eliason on a number of these points today, in which each of us concede we are reading tea leaves. Of course, he's the expert attorney and I am anything but. Please tune in for this interesting discussion!

Finally, we close with what is best described as some "good-ish news" regarding Elsa, the first Atlantic storm to come ashore this year, in what is already a record setting storm season...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Robert Brandon of Fair Elections Center; Also: We're back! But with a week of news in one segment to get you (and us) all caught up!...
By Brad Friedman on 7/6/2021 6:48pm PT  

We're back on today's BradCast after a much-needed week off, which turned out to be a really big news week. But don't worry. We get all caught up somehow (mostly) on everything you need to know in just one segment today! Plus, an excellent guest to explain how the Republicans' packed U.S. Supreme Court has undermined both democracy and the Constitution yet again at the end of this year's term. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

Among the stories from last week (and this week) that we catch up on before moving to our guest...

  • The thought-to-be-extinguished Lava Fire in Northern California erupts with two others;
  • Last week's deadly, climate-change fueled heat wave in the Pacifica Northwest and British Columbia resulted in hundreds of deaths in the U.S. and Canada;
  • The confirmed death toll at the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida ticks up over 30 with more than 100 still unaccounted for, as recovery is hampered by the incoming, already record-breaking Hurricane Elsa;
  • An ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on video admitting to the company's years of subterfuge about our climate emergency caused by the unmitigated burning of their products;
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland declared a moratorium on federal executions;
  • George W. Bush's "war criminal" Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, died;
  • The U.S. finally, permanently evacuated Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as President Biden tries to finally end America's longest war before the 20th Anniversary of 9/11;
  • COVID infections spiked 10% over the previous week as the Delta Variant continues to pose a quickly growing danger, effecting mostly unvaccinated people (so far);
  • Despite its low infection rate, Los Angeles County urged residents to wear masks indoors again, thanks to the increasing spread of the much more infectious coronavirus variant;
  • More than 180 people were shot and killed over the July 4th holiday weekend in more than 540 shootings in the U.S. over a 72-hour period;
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named her selections, including one Republican, to a House Select Committee to investigate the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol after Republicans in the House and Senate recently reneged on a deal with Democrats for a bipartisan independent commission;
  • Sexual predator Bill Cosby was freed from jail thanks to a ridiculous deal made years ago by one of the lead defense attorneys in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial;
  • The Boy Scouts of America agreed to an $850 million settlement with victims over thousands of sexual abuse allegations;
  • The Trump Organization and its longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg were indicted on multiple state criminal charges including Scheme to Defraud, Conspiracy, Grand Larceny, Criminal Tax Fraud and Falsifying of Business Records;
  • The NYC Mayor's election, already made ridiculously complicated by Ranked Choice Voting, went sideways last week after it was discovered that 135,000 sample ballots were accidentally included by NYC election officials in the weeks-long, impossible-to-oversee RCV tabulation procedure;
  • Arizona's months-long "audit" theater was extended yet again, as the rightwing, QAnon conspiracy company called Cyber Ninjas continued its secret examination of 2.1 million ballots cast during last year's Presidential election in Maricopa County (Phoenix). That's the partially taxpayer-funded clown show that, as I reported weeks ago now, according to the Ninjas' own documents [PDF], allows them to miscount a MINIMUM of 42,000 votes without setting off any internal alarm bells, in a race that was decided by a statewide margin of just 10,000 votes;
  • And, the Dept. of Justice called on Congress to adopt new laws to protect voters after the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court ended their term last week by undermining democracy and the U.S. Constitution yet again.

In Brnovich vs. DNC [PDF], the Court's 6 to 3 Republican majority overturned a lower appeals court decision that had blocked two new restrictions on voting in Arizona. One barred the counting of ballots cast by voters in the wrong precinct and the other banned the collection of ballots by third-parties (derisively known as "ballot harvesting" by Rightwingers implying it's used by minorities to defraud elections...despite the lack of any evidence in support of that assertion). Both laws were shown to have disproportionately impacted minority voters in the state. That is supposed to be barred by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But, writing for the Court's majority, activist Justice Samuel Alito made up new "guidelines" that ignore both Congress' intent in its passage of the VRA and the Constitution's own plain language that "Congress shall have the power to enforce" the 15th Amendment decree that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

So, how will the Court's ruling in Brnovich, allowing for discrimination in voting laws, effect the spate of pending challenges to new voter suppression laws now being enacted by GOP-controlled states around the country? What, if anything, can Congress do about it? And, if they do, will this hard-right anti-democracy Court allow any such new laws to stand?

We're joined today to discuss all of that and more by longtime public interest attorney ROBERT BRANDON, President, CEO and co-founder of the Fair Elections Center. He describes the Republican Justices' opinion as "a real departure" from the claims of so-called originalism and Constitutional textualism --- a literal reading of the plain words of the Constitution --- which the rightwing Justices have long pretended to believe in. This decision, he explains, is "clearly is going to make it harder to challenge and defeat, in court, the laws that disenfranchise the most Americans, particularly black and brown voters, and other marginalized voters. In the case of Arizona, including disabled voters, who often need help delivering their ballots."

Alito's ruling, according to Brandon, essentially says "discrimination is okay as long as it's not a whole lot." But Brandon also explains why the Court's decision, as terrible as it is, doesn't necessarily mean that the multiple legal challenges to dozens of new GOP suppression laws adopted since last year, in the wake of Trump's evidence-free Big Lie that the election was stolen, will fail.

"It's a great irony, of course, that we just had the highest turnout election in history," he says, "yet now we're talking about adding all of these new barriers to voting around the country."

Finally, on this four-day work week following the Monday Independence Day holiday, a new analysis of a years-long study in Iceland finds that productivity either remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces when the work week was cut to just four days. How can we get this progressive idea --- now also being studied in Spain and New Zealand, and found to benefit workers' health and lives without harming corporate bottom lines --- adopted here in the U.S.? Working on it...

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Guest: Dr. Brian Hughes of American University's PERIL; Also: Criminal charges soon for Trump Org?; DoJ sues GA for vote suppression; More on climate change effects on collapsed FL high-rise...
By Brad Friedman on 6/25/2021 6:30pm PT  

As usual in this country, we're dealing with the crisis all wrong. Violent domestic extremism --- domestic terrorism --- has become a public-health issue in this country, according to our guest today on The BradCast. If we treat it as such, it may not become the security problem that we're currently treating it as. We're good at law enforcement and security issues in this country. Public-health issues? Not so much. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, first up today, a few breaking news stories of note...

  • Several news outlets this afternoon are confirming that Donald Trump's family business could face criminal charges as soon as next week. Not Trump himself --- yet --- or his family members or other employees, but the Trump Organization itself. New York Times was first to report that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance could file criminal indictments next week against the Trump Organization, based on fringe benefits given to employees, such as expensive apartments, cars and school tuition for employee family members on which taxes were not properly paid. The Trump Org's CFO Allen Weisselberg and possibly his son, who also work for the company, seem to be targeted here. Both Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James have been investigating whether the disgraced former President committed bank and tax fraud and whether he committed campaign finance felonies with hush-money payments to two different women before the 2016 election. It's believed that prosecutors are hoping that the company's longtime financial chief, Weisselberg, will flip against his boss. These charges are likely part of that effort.
  • Also today, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia over it's expansive new voter-suppression law, SB202. Seven non-profit voting and civil rights organizations have filed separate complaints (including one, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, in which I am a named plaintiff). But the big guns of a federal lawsuit by the DOJ suggest that the Biden Administration is taking seriously the spate of new laws being adopted by GOP-controlled legislatures around the country aimed at making it harder for Americans --- specifically, minorities --- to vote. Comments from Garland and his deputies in the Voting Rights Division today, when announcing the legal action, suggest there may be more such suits against other states coming soon as well.
  • Finally, before we get to our guest today, some additional information on a question we posed yesterday, as to whether rising seas due to human-caused climate change may have played a part in the tragic, deadly collapse of a 12-story high-rise condominium in Surfside, Florida near Miami Beach on Thursday. A number of experts have hinted at the possibility over the past 24 hours since our last show. One is a professor at the Florida International University’s Institute of Environment, speaking to CNN, citing the building's subsidence rate (how much it is sinking into the ground) during a study in the 1990s. And NBC News spoke to a number of experts who cited the towns along the sandy, reclaimed wetlands barrier island on which Miami Beach and Surfside stand --- an island which, we now understand, actually migrates and moves along with rising sea levels. One geologist quoted suggests that the necessity of a coastal retreat from barrier islands --- where currently $3 trillion worth of property is now located in the U.S. --- may soon be upon us. "It’s a tough conversation to have, but the building shouldn’t have been there --- along with a lot of other buildings," he says. "We’re due for a real awakening."

Next, it's on to the rise in violent domestic extremism, particularly fostered by White Supremacy in the wake of Donald Trump's presidency and the deadly, Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. After Republicans reneged on a deal with House Democrats to form an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the 1/6 attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week announced plans to create a House Select Committee to get to the root cause of what happened and why. During a House hearing this week, the nation's highest ranking military leader, Gen. Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered an impassioned response to criticism of interest in Critical Race Theory among military leadership, and the causes of "white rage", in which he spoke to the importance of learning "what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America."

Our guest today, DR. BRIAN HUGHES of American University's Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), suggests Pelosi and Milley and "the Biden Administration's proposal for how to tackle domestic terrorism and extremism points in the right direction." Hughes' colleague, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, also of PERIL, recently penned an op-ed at The Atlantic arguing that far-right domestic extremism has now spread into the mainstream, and must be dealt with as more than simply a security and law-enforcement issue. It is no longer a matter of tracking specific organizations, but now a matter of radicalization by individuals "who are influenced by ideas online rather than by plots hatched by group leaders in secret gatherings," Miller-Idriss posits. It is now a public-health issue, she argues, and must be dealt with by a whole-of-society approach.

"We, as a society, are incredibly militarized, we're incredibly securitized, and so the solutions that we reach to, when we have a problem, are almost inevitably securitized or militarized and  contain some element of that securitization," Hughes explains today. "Our approach to extremism and terrorism is no different.  Certainly law enforcement and intelligence have a very important role to play here.  But it can never be more than a band-aid solution. As we see now, there aren't enough band-aids in the world to deal with the violence that this country is facing.  We really have to go deeper to the root causes of these issues."

Hughes cites the Biden Administration's proposal to incorporate the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Education into their initiative to take on violent extremism as "really, really critical. But even more critical is allocating resources to local communities.  The more locally we can distribute the necessary training, the necessary education, and the necessary funding to address radicalization before it even starts, the fewer of those security, and law enforcement, and militarized solutions that we're going to have to come up with in the future."

As we delve into details, we discuss ways that state and local communities must take on the issue as well. (The "seven minutes of reading to improve understanding of how radical ideas spread online," which we discuss as having helped some 750 parents and caregivers in a recent study by PERIL and the Southern Poverty Law Center is posted here.) We also discuss the paradox of how coming to a collective understanding of the effects of systemic racism in the U.S., as well as actions taken by social media companies to help curb the effectiveness of propaganda and far-right radicalism, can also serve to increase the "white rage" that new policies and new ways of facing this as a public-health issue are meant to counteract.

Hughes also shares his experience in working with former extremists and the "deep, deep sense of shame" and "horror" they ultimately experience after they come to terms with having been radicalized. "It just tears families apart. It absolutely ruins relationships as surely as drugs and alcohol do. This isn't just a matter of a person becoming a jerk. This is a question of a person blowing up their own life and the lives of the people around them." All of which is just part of the reason why we must rethink our approach to the problem as one of public-health.

As Hughes concedes, none of this is "going to change overnight," but there are ways that we can start taking action right now, particularly at the local level, where he urges people to get involved with their local school systems on this matter in order to prevent the radicalization long before it begins. "Request this kind of education, request these kinds of materials. Education happens at the local level in the United States, so it's really on all of us to improve things in our local communities."

I hope you'll tune in for this fascinating and insightful conversation...

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Condo collapse in FL; Dems hopeful, cautious on bipartisan infrastructure 'deal'; Pelosi's announces 1/6 committee; Giuliani's NY law license suspended; MI Repubs eviscerate 2020 'fraud' claims...
By Brad Friedman on 6/24/2021 5:42pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It was one of those days. Again. Everything all at once. Again. We do our best to help you make sense of it all. Again. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories, many of them still breaking as we went to air, covered on today's program...

  • High-rise condominium building collapses in South Florida near Miami Beach. As of air-time, 1 person was announced as dead and 99 others currently unaccounted for, as rescuers continue to comb through the deadly rubble searching for survivors.
  • President Biden declared "we have a deal" on an infrastructure package. It's a $1.2 trillion bipartisan "compromise" deal in the U.S. Senate on his proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan. That proposal is one part of his infrastructure plan for things like roads, bridges, the electrical grid, and broadband Internet. The other part of his two-part proposal is the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which includes the "human infrastructure" part of the package, focused on childcare, education and healthcare. While Biden lauded the "compromise" struck among Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate, House Speaker Pelosi promised she would not bring up the compromise proposal for a vote in the House until the other part of the package --- the American Families Plan and, presumably, whatever is being left out of the "compromise" bill --- is passed with a simple majority vote in the Senate under Budget Reconciliation rules which allow lawmakers to avoid the anti-democratic Senate filibuster rule. "Make sure you understand this," the Speaker vowed during her presser today, "there ain't gonna be no bipartisan bill unless we are going to have the Reconciliation bill."
  • Pelosi, who has seen her fair share of Republicans reneging on deals at the last minute, also announced that she intends to create a House Committee to investigate the deadly, Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. That, after House Dems had struck a deal with Republicans earlier this year for a bi-partisan, evenly divided, independent Commission, only to see Republican leadership, after the deal was already struck, go on to vote against the bill in the House and kill it entirely with the filibuster in the Senate.
  • Speaking of the filibuster, which would need to be reformed if Democrats hope to pass their sweeping elections, voting rights and campaign finance reform bill known as the For the People Act through the Senate, three moderate Senate Democrats (Mark Kelley of Arizona, Michael Bennett of Colorado, and Catherine Cortez-Masto of NV) spoke to the need to do exactly that during a private conference call this week. The audio, obtained by the Colorado Newsline, reveals each moderate Dem discussing the need to reform the filibuster and suggesting that intra-caucus negotiations are well underway to try and figure out how to do exactly that.
  • In New York, an appeals court has accepted the recommendation of a state committee of attorneys to immediately suspend Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law, citing "uncontroverted evidence” that he “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020." That conduct, the court agreed, "immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law." While the disgraced former U.S. Attorney and NYC Mayor will be allowed to argue against the suspension in an upcoming hearing, experts believe the action today, however, is likely to lead to permanent disbarment. "The seriousness of respondent's uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated," the court wrote [PDF]. "This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden." That, after Giuliani spent months on behalf of Trump, following the November election offering one false claim after another to one state legislative committee after another, pretending to cite evidence that the election was stolen from the disgraced former President.
  • Those unsubstantiated and false claims, at least in Michigan, were devastatingly rebutted and debunked on Wednesday, by a Republican state Senate committee on Wednesday. In their unsparing 35-page point-by-point report [PDF], the lawmakers absolutely eviscerate Giuliani's, Trump's, Sidney Powell's, Jovan Pulitizer's and all of the other GOP grifters and con-artist's evidence-free claims about "voter fraud" and theft by computer voting and tabulation systems. Every Republican on the state's Senate Oversight Committee signed on to the brutal report, compiled over the past eight months, and responding to each and every phony claim suggesting systematic fraud in the state. The Committee found no basis for any of the wild accusations and even calls for a legal investigation and potential prosecution by the state's Attorney General for "those who have been utilizing misleading and false information...to raise money or publicity for their own ends." Ouch.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report with, well, not much good news today. The worsening drought in the West is now threatening drinking water; The Siberian Arctic(!) is facing a record heatwave, with temperatures topping out above 110 (in the Arctic!); A new report finds climate change is making heat waves hotter; And a whole bunch of other news that I don't have the heart to share with you here...

Enjoy!

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Also: NatSec journalist Marcy Wheeler with 'perspective' on Trump DoJ 'spying' on Dem lawmakers, lessons Adam Schiff may learn from it...
By Brad Friedman on 6/16/2021 5:56pm PT  

Our plans for covering the Biden/Putin summit in Geneva today were happily tossed aside late today, with the big news that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is apparently willing to compromise on a voting rights bill in the U.S. Senate! Frankly, it's more important right now than Biden/Putin, so they got bumped from today's BradCast. We didn't, however, bump our guest today, who offers some critical insight on the disturbing news that Donald Trump's Justice Department "spied" on House Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First up, Sen. Manchin has been the only Democrat in the upper chamber unwilling to come on board as co-sponsor of the For the People Act (H.R.1 in the House, where it's already passed and S.1 in the Senate, where Manchin is holding it up.) In fact, he recently declared in a hometown paper op-ed that he opposes the measure (even though he co-sponsored it back in 2019), while also restating his opposition to reform of the filibuster. Such reform would be required to adopt the For the People Act with a simple majority of Democrats in the Senate.

Today, however, Manchin released a memo [PDF] detailing his "Compromise" points for support of the For the People Act! We discuss those points at the top of today's show. They include a whole bunch of stuff that's in the current measure already adopted by the House, along with a few "New" items that he is seeking. Most of them are acceptable (such as "Make election day a public holiday"), where some others (such as a measure for seemingly modest "voter ID" requirements) may be a bit more controversial among some Democrats and voting rights advocates.

All told, however, while the devil remains in the details --- and his simple bullet points offer few --- we see nothing particularly objectionable about Manchin's "Compromise" list. At least nothing that should prevent passage of such a measure ASAP to help counter some of the extreme voter suppression measures currently being adopted by Republicans at the state level around the country in advance of the 2022 mid-terms.

There is still the problem that, as Manchin's memo notes, "federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward." He's right, of course, in general. But the fact is that Republicans have zero interest in finding any such path. There is also the problem that, even if Dems can settle on a bill they (and Manchin) all like, there is little chance in hell that even one Republican will come on board to support it, much less the 10 that would be needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. If Manchin won't agree to compromise on the filibuster --- at least to pass democracy related legislation --- the measure would go nowhere.

Still, one step at a time. Today's news, that Manchin is finally willing, at least, to compromise on the For the People Act, is tremendously encouraging for those of us who care about the survival of democracy in the U.S.

Next, we're joined by long-time, independent national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel, with some critical insight on the news that broke late last week revealing the Trump Dept. of Justice secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message records of House Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell in 2018. Both were, and are, members of the U.S. House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and both were regarded by our disgraced former President as his political enemies.

In addition to Schiff and Swalwell, the Trump DoJ's shocking secret surveillance also included scores of Congressional aides and even their children, purportedly as part of a probe into leaks regarding a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant taken out during the Obama Administration on 2016 Trump Campaign advisor, Carter Page.

Following the news this week, the House Judiciary Committee announced a formal investigation into what they describe as "a pretext to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies". Also, Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the DoJ Inspector General for a probe into the matter as well.

Wheeler, however, offered some very helpful "perspective on the politicized leak investigation" by Trump's DoJ at her website, which we discuss today. Among the points she notes: This isn't actually "spying"; It isn't actually unprecedented --- well, mostly; and the fact that the secret subpoenas reportedly only sought metadata (records of who and when someone was called, emailed or texted, rather than the actual content of those communications), shouldn't really bother Democratic lawmakers at all, given that they have long defended the collection of "just" metadata in probes by law enforcement officials.

Wheeler notes Schiff has been "championing" the "it's 'just' metadata" claims for years "when he talks about surveilling Americans." But, she explains, "when you get metadata [going back] ten years, that is enormously powerful." Putting limits "on the span on metadata that you can pull without a judicial order" might be "something, maybe that Adam Schiff will have learned his lesson" from here, she quips.

Moreover, the breadth of the secret subpoenas --- for example, obtaining Schiff's records from Apple going all the way back to 2009 for an investigation into a leak that occurred in 2017 --- was wildly broad. And, though the records apparently didn't reveal any of the Congressmembers or their staff (or their children) were guilty of leaking, the FBI and DoJ were legally allowed to hold onto to those records for years, potentially using them for other reasons as well, as it appears Trump's AG Bill Barr may have. As Marcy snarked in her piece on this at Emptywheel: "It’s a pity for Adam Schiff that no one in charge of surveillance in Congress imposed better trackability requirements on FBI’s access of its investigative collections."

Schiff is currently the Chair of HPSCI. At the time of the secret subpoenas, he was the Committee's ranking Democrat and has long been supportive of these types of virtually limitless subpoenas, according to Wheeler.

There are other outrages here, for example, the length of allowable gag orders, preventing companies like Apple from notifying customers, for years, that they are being surveilled, as in this case; the fact that there are no real requirements for narrowly tailoring such broad searches. Wheeler is hopeful that lawmakers may learn from this, now that they have become the targets. Naturally, they are bothered when it happens to them and to journalists, whereas the same invasive practices targeting ordinary Americans receives little attention or concern from lawmakers.

"The standard is there is no probable cause required," for these kinds of searches, she explains. "The FBI could have just said, 'We need all of the phone records for everybody on HPSCI because they are the people who got the document that was leaked,'  and that meets the relevant standard. And that is the standard that Adam Schiff has been telling us for years isn't all that intrusive"...

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Guest: Const'l Attorney John Bonifaz on reversing 'the road to tyranny' (and also on how to get foreign corporate money out of U.S. elections)...
By Brad Friedman on 6/15/2021 6:46pm PT  

Writing at Washington Monthly today, asking "Why Is Merrick Garland Defending Bill Barr's Policies?," law professor and Free Speech for People (FSFP) Board Member Jennifer Taub quips: "This is Merrick Garland's Tylenol moment, and by which I mean he has more than a headache but a poisoning on his hands." Yup. Today's BradCast won't cure his headache, but it may offer an antidote for the poisoning...if he pays attention. [Audio link to full show follows below.]

The new Attorney General spoke at the Dept. of Justice on Tuesday about his national strategy to focus on the rise of domestic terrorism, particularly carried out by white supremacists in the wake of the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Garland described such incidents as "attacks on all of us collectively, aimed at rending the fabric of our democratic society and driving us apart," adding: "We have an enormous task ahead, to move forward as a country, to punish the perpetrators, to do everything possible to prevent similar attacks and to do so in a manner that affirms the values on which our justice system is founded and upon which democracy depends."

Garland's remarks follow on his announcement Friday that he is doubling the number of DoJ attorneys focused on enforcing voting rights at the federal level in light of new vote suppression laws being adopted by Republicans in states around the country.

So, he seems to understand at least two major threats to the values "on which our justice system is founded and upon which democracy depends." But is he really prepared to punish all of the perpetrators?

Every day now it seems that stunning new information is revealed as to just how poisoned our Dept. of Justice had become under the Trump Administration, as the former President used the nation's once widely respected law enforcement agency for his own personal purposes, to protect himself from legal accountability (as in former AG Bill Barr's use of the department to block Trump from criminal accountability for obstruction following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings and from civil accountability in the defamation case filed by Trump's alleged rape victim, E. Jean Carroll, both of which Taub writes about today); to wield power against his perceived political enemies (as we learned last week, when it was revealed that the DoJ secretly obtained phone, email and text message records from Democratic lawmakers and several media outlets in 2018); and, in futile efforts to keep himself in power (as we learned today, based on emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee revealing Trump tried to order the DoJ to file briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of his evidence-free big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him).

As more and more emerges, it's difficult to keep up with it all. But, sadly, what we know so far is likely only the tip of the iceberg. That's why, back in February, a group of non-partisan government watchdog groups penned a letter [PDF] to then Judge Merrick Garland, prior to his confirmation as AG, calling on him to form a task force at the DoJ immediately after being confirmed, "to investigate any potential federal criminal or civil violations that may have been committed by former President Trump, members of his administration, or his campaign, business, or other associates."

The letter, which has now been signed onto by more than 200,000 Americans, according to FSFP, asks Garland to convene the task force to probe Trump's "flurry of unethical, unconstitutional, and often criminal activity, culminating on January 6, 2021, with the seditious insurrection on the United States Capitol incited and encouraged by former President Trump and his allies."

"If we are to begin the process of restoring the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law to our nation," the groups write --- before detailing at least five different categories of "potential offenses" by the previous administration --- "it is essential that the Department thoroughly investigate these actions and, where warranted and appropriate, hold accountable those who have violated the nation's laws."

That DoJ task force, however, has yet to be formed. And Garland, according to our guest today, Constitutional attorney and longtime voting rights champion JOHN BONIFAZ, co-founder and President of FSFP, has yet to reply to the February letter.

On today's show, Bonifaz explains why "it's critical" that this task force be stood up, and why such a group of prosecutors need to be convened in this matter, rather than an independent commission formed by Congress, a blue ribbon panel formed by the White House or even another Special Counsel investigation launched by DoJ.

While he supports Congressional oversight in general, he explains: "The reason why we believe a task force is the best way to go over a Special Counsel is we do think this should not be assigned outside of the Department to someone who then is seen, as Robert Mueller was, as the sole arbiter of this." While disagreeing, as many scholars do, with the notion that a sitting President cannot be criminally indicted, Bonifaz explains that Mueller's report "was very clear that once the President was out of office, he would be free to be prosecuted for those crimes."

"That's just one example of many as to why this task force needs to be created," he tells me. "There are multiple investigations that need to proceed, and potentially multiple prosecutions. It would be an outrage for this Administration to claim that it's going to turn the page, it's not going to conduct that kind of accountability for those that have engaged in such lawless behavior in the last Administration. That's what happens on the road to tyranny. If we're to protect our democracy and our Constitution, it's critical that we hold Donald Trump and his associates accountable for the violations of federal criminal law they may have committed."

We discuss a number of the already known issues currently crying out for real probes by federal prosecutors if the DoJ is ever to be restored; concerns about Trump associates still burrowed in at Justice; the many investigations known to have been shut down by Barr which should quickly be re-opened; and the question of "why is the Biden Justice Department continuing the work of the Barr Justice Department" when it comes to attacks on press freedoms via only-recently lifted gag orders on secret subpoenas of reporters' private records and "the intervention that the Barr Justice Department started in the E. Jean Carroll case --- both of these decisions were clearly made with Garland's knowledge."

I also ask Bonifaz for his opinion on whether he believes Garland is actually up to the gargantuan task of dealing with the ongoing and increasing problems that DoJ must now handle regarding all sorts of criminal and civil matters, even while bringing both accountability for the unprecedented corruption of the previous Administration and the necessary reforms at DoJ to avoid the same or worse abuse of the nation's top law enforcement agency in the future.

"I think this is a moment for the Department of Justice, but also for democracy and our Constitution. And they need to get it right," he explains.

In a separate matter, FSFP --- which was founded in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 'Citizens United' ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate money in American elections --- is now working at the state level to enact model legislation that would bar corporations with foreign investors (which is a whole lot of them!) from being allowed to spend money in state and municipal elections.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen, as new temperature records are being smashed during the year's first major (and very early) heat wave, for our latest Green News Report. Beyond the bad news about climate change, we've got some very good news to close with today, particularly for folks up in Alaska...

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Also: Netanyahu finally out in Israel; 'Imminent radiological threat' at Chinese nuke plant?; 2016 whistleblower leaves prison; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2021 6:07pm PT  

We try to hit a lot of news on today's BradCast after yet another very busy news weekend both at home and abroad. We don't get through our entire stack, but that's only thanks to some good calls from listeners along the way. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the stories we cover on today's program...

  • 600,000 are now dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. as states --- including California on Tuesday --- begin opening up again for business at full capacity (and as infection rates start to tick up again nationally...we're hoping it's just some noise in the data for now...)
  • Israel's longtime, hard-right leader Benjamin Netanyu, recently indicted on corruption charges, is finally out as Prime Minister of Israel. On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset officially approved a new governing coalition with a former top Netanyahu aide, Naftali Bennett, as the Jewish state's new Prime Minister. He will lead a broad coalition of some eight left, right and center parties, including the first Arab party to sit in a governing coalition. The fragile new partnership aims to move beyond the exceedingly polarizing years of the former PM, even as Netanyahu --- in one of his Trumpiest tantrums to date --- demonized many of his former rightwing colleagues in the new coalition as an "evil and dangerous leftist government" and decried his personal legal troubles as the result of a witch hunt. (Sound familiar?)
  • A disturbing story broke over night by CNN, suggesting there may be an ongoing or "imminent radiological threat" at a new nuclear power plant in China. Details come largely via a French company that has partnered with the Chinese on the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province. Independent experts are watching the situation closely to determine how dangerous --- or, not-that-unusual --- the situation now is, as cracks seem to have formed in the main encasement of fuel rods at the plant. We'll continue to watch this one as well.
  • U.S. allies appeared just shy of giddy over the weekend and into today, as Joe Biden made his first appearance as President at the G7 summit in Cornwall, England and the NATO meetings that followed it. Biden and longtime allies in Europe hope the new President will restore a sense of normalcy to the proceedings and the post-WWII order, even as old disputes continue and many in Europe remain concerned (for good reason!) about the continuing fragile and divisive political situation in the U.S. that allowed the rise of Donald Trump's autocratic regimes in the first place.
  • Former National Security Agency whistleblower Reality Winner was released early from prison on Monday for good behavior. Winner had sent documents to media revealing Russia's attempted hacks of a voter registration software company in the U.S. during the 2016 election. The extent of those hacks is still publicly unknown but, arguably, wouldn't be known at all had it not been for Winner revealing the information to the media and public. As thanks, she was slapped with one of the longest prison sentences ever for such a leak to the media.
  • Then, callers ring in on a number of the various stories covered above, as well as some additional ones, including the news that Trump's DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message records from Democratic lawmakers; Republicans continue to undermine American democracy in states across the nation; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin continues to obstruct democratic reforms; and concerns persist about whether Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland is up to the task of bringing accountability for so much of the unprecedented damage wrought by the Department during the Trump years...

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Guest: 'Jackpot' author Michael Mechanic; Also: Trump's politicized DoJ spied on Dems in unprecedented violation of Separation of Powers...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2021 6:30pm PT  

The volume of incoming huge news stories these days is getting to be as overwhelming as it was during the Trump years. But it's also a reminder to anyone who has deluded themselves into thinking that the Trump Era is over, it is anything but. We were planning on covering ProPublica's blockbuster bombshell exclusive this week on today's BradCast --- and we still do --- though it has been somewhat eclipsed by last night's New York Times blockbuster bombshell exclusive. We do our best to cover both today. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First, the remarkable news broken by the Times late on Thursday is that Donald Trump's wildly corrupt Dept. of Justice was a whole lot more corrupt than we have all yet fully appreciated. As it turns out, in an unprecedented move, his DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message data of Democratic members of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee. But it wasn't just members that Trump saw as political enemies, including top Judiciary Dem Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell. It was also their staff and even their children, one of whom was a minor, according to the Times' blockbuster.

All of that, even as the Trump Administration spent years blocking Congress from lawful subpoenas for testimony and documents from the White House itself and virtually every Executive branch agency, under the false premise that it would violate the Constitution's Separation of Powers, granting co-equal powers to both the Legislative and Executive branches. All the while, the Trump Administration was actually --- literally --- spying on members of the Legislative branch, while claiming (disingenuously) that Congress was overstepping its bounds by issuing lawful, public subpoenas for testimony to members of the Executive branch.

The stunning news comes after a week in which we previously learned that the Trump DoJ also secretly obtained phone, email and text records of journalists at the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN. Democrats claim to be outraged by it all, and vow to investigate. But without real legal consequences, accompanied by sweeping reforms by both Congress and, most immediately, Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice, the appalling and outrageous and unlawful acts carried out during four years of the Trump Administration will absolutely be carried out again --- and even worse next time --- in the very near future.

Speaking of much-needed, long-overdue action from Congress, the ProPublica bombshell this week revealed that --- based on a "vast cache of IRS information" somehow obtained by the non-profit media outlet on the nation's wealthiest men --- American billionaires have been allowed to avoid almost all federal income taxes for years on their accumulated and still-surging wealth. As the media outlet reports in their jaw-dropping, nearly 6,000 word exclusive this week, "billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing."

Their months-long analysis of the data "demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can --- perfectly legally --- pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year."

The raw IRS data show that billionaires like Bezos (the world's wealthiest man), Musk, Buffett and the others often pay zero in federal income taxes. Overall, the nation's top 25 wealthiest --- whose fortunes increased collectively by $401 billion between 2014 and 2018 --- paid a tax rate on that accumulated wealth of just 3.4% on average. That, compared to a median tax rate of 14% paid by regular, middle-class Americans, as the U.S. tax code rewards wealth over labor.

The New York Times explains in its own coverage of ProPublica's scoop, that even as Congress and President Biden bicker over tweaks to marginal tax rates, the ultra-wealthy avoid such trivialities all together. "The ProPublica revelations got to a widely understood issue: that the superrich earn virtually all their wealth from the constantly rising value of their assets, particularly in the stock market, and that the sales of those assets are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income from a paycheck...But the analysis also revealed a less recognized strategy employed by the superrich: taking huge loans, using their assets as collateral. It allows them to avoid selling their assets and facing taxation, and even to write off some lending costs. In that way, Mr. Bezos and Mr. Buffett were able to show yearly income losses even as their wealth grew by billions of dollars."

Mother Jones' Senior Editor MICHAEL MECHANIC joins us today with a great deal of context and perspective on this long running, if legal, scam, after spending a couple of years hanging out with the ultra rich while researching his newly published book, Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live --- and How Their Wealth Harms Us All.

Mechanic underscores the scam revealed by ProPublica: "As we've seen from the way the tax code works, wealth begets wealth, and we reward capital over wages. If you make a fortune on a stock, you pay a maximum of 20% when you sell that stock. In the meantime, when you hold it, you don't pay any taxes at all --- it's called 'unrealized gains.' What these billionaires have done is they just borrow against that. They never have to sell, so they never even pay the capital gains tax.  Meanwhile, you and I are getting a paycheck. If we made as much as they did, we'd be charged 37%.  So it's 37% versus 20% for assets, but they're not even paying the 20% because they're not selling the assets. They're taking out low-interest loans, paying a few percent, living on that money." And, yes, even as the cost of the interest would be less than they'd have to pay in taxes if they sold assets to live on their own money instead, they actually get to deduct the cost of those loans from their income taxes!

We discuss, among other things, how all of this actually hurts average Americans; how, because of it, trillions of dollars are not available to the government to spend on healthcare, schools, climate change, infrastructure and other public services; what, if anything, can or will be done about it by Congress --- where Republicans (and too many Democrats) seems to be just fine with a system that rewards wealth over work; whether proposals like Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax of .02 cents on every dollar of wealth by those worth more than $50 million could ever be adopted in Congress or is even Constitutional; and how all of this wealth doesn't even get taxed upon death when it's passed from generation to generation, as Mechanic reports at MoJo today.

"There's always been this argument, from the very beginning, that if you tax investors and business people, those people then won't invest, won't create jobs," Mechanic observes. "It's a spurious argument. If you have $100 million and somebody raises the capital gains rate, does that mean you're not going to start a company? You're not going to put it into the stock market? No, of course not. What else are you going to do with your money, put it under your mattress?!"

And, yes, we also discuss his new book (highly lauded by the legendary Bill Moyers!), which Mechanic describes as "not a polemical book. It's a funny, entertaining, and enraging character-driven narrative, in which I basically hang out with super-wealthy people and their minions. I interview researchers, I talk to a woman who trains billionaires' nannies in physical combat, [and] a guy who builds luxury safe rooms. It's a journey of the American wealth fantasy and how it's gone off the rails."

So, hey, if you're not already enraged enough by today's program, please buy Mike's book! It's out just in time to enrage Dad for Father's Day!

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Huge, hard-fought win for the environment on KeystoneXL; Another fight builds in MN over another tar sands pipeline; Mr. Biden goes to Europe (not a moment too soon); TX's corrupt A.G. faces still more legal trouble...
By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2021 6:45pm PT  

Today's BradCast is dedicated to the protester Davids who defeated a fossil fuel Goliath after a 13-year fight to help save us all. Thank you, protesters! And please keep going! Humanity needs you! [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the stories covered with appreciation on today's program...

  • It was a huge, hard-fought, well-deserved win for the unprecedented coalition of environmentalists, tribes, scientists, farmers, ranchers, and even a few journalists, behind the defeat of TC Energy's enormous, dangerous KeystoneXL Pipeline. For 13 years, the company, formerly known as TransCanada, had fought to build a 1,200 mile pipeline to send 830,000 barrels each day of toxic, sticky tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas for export overseas. For 13 years, protesters stood up against the project, which threatened rivers, streams, native lands, farms, drinking water aquifers and the climate itself. One of the nation's greatest climate scientists James Hansen warned in 2012 that if the Alberta tar sands are full developed, via projects like KXL, it would be "game over for the climate". After President Obama canceled the pipeline's permit due to the damage it would cause for the environment via climate change, it looked to be game over for KXL itself. But then Donald Trump got elected and reversed Obama. When Joe Biden took office, he cancelled the permit once again as one of his very first actions, and has refused to back off, despite pleas from both Canada and the company. On Wednesday, TC Energy finally gave up the game. The KeystoneXL Pipeline is now really, truly dead. We all owe the coalition of protesters and activists a huge thanks. But the fight now continues elsewhere...
  • In Minnesota this week, a similar coalition of activists stood up demonstrations against another Canadian company named Enbridge Energy, which is replacing a 1960's era pipeline called Line 3, said to be deteriorating and unable to operate at full capacity, with a steel reinforced pipe the same size as KXL's. Also like KXL, the upgraded Line 3 would also pump more than 800,000 barrels a day across thousands of rivers, streams and native lands from the Alberta tar sands to Wisconsin. So the protesters are back at it. Hundreds were arrested during protests this week, even as a helicopter from the federal Border Patrol (unlawfully?) buzzed over them from about 20 feet, kicking up dust and debris on more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators. They are calling for President Biden to take similar action on Line 3 that both he and Obama took in lifting permits for KXL. The Administration has yet to take a position on Line 3, but protesters are back at it, with some blocking off the entrance to a construction site this week, by parking --- and spending the night chained to --- a boat named "Good Trouble" that they parked in front of one of the Enbridge construction sites. We cover that critical new battle today.
  • These actions to save the environment are for good reason, as we are currently seeing very clearly in the Southwest, which is facing another record "megadrought" right now. Lake Mead --- the nation's largest reservoir, which provides water for agriculture and human consumption to seven states --- is at its lowest level since it was built in the 1930s. Water cutbacks are already in place and likely to become much more severe by August if the lake's level, which sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona continues to drop. More than 86% of AZ is already under "extreme" or "exceptional" drought. Power supplies in the region are also likely to be affected, as Mead supplies water to Hoover Dam, which has already cut back electricity generation due to the low water levels. In California, reservoirs are now at 50% of normal capacity, with mountain snow-pack already gone two months earlier than normal, vegetation moisture at record lows, Summer just beginning and fire season set to begin as early as this month. All of this, thanks in no small part to man-made climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels like the ones that won't being flowing through the KeystoneXL and --- if environmentalists win more battles --- through massive pipelines like Line 3 or Dakota Access. This fight matters. Not only for the future, but for the immediate present, as those of us out West can attest right now.
  • Meanwhile, overseas, President Biden is kicking off his first trip as President, meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, after speaking to U.S. troops about the importance of reinforcing democracy over rising autocracy upon his arrival in Europe yesterday. Johnson warmly welcomed Biden as the two leaders today reaffirmed their nations' "special relationship" by renewing the World War II era Atlantic Charter signed by FDR and Winston Churchill.
  • BoJo wasn't the only one to welcome America's new President. A new survey out today from Pew Research Center underscores the support by the publics of 16 economically developed nations who couldn't be happier to see Biden in place rather than Trump, after trust in the U.S. overseas fell to historic lows under the previous President. We cover some of the striking numbers from Pew today, including, for example, the 75% of respondents who express confidence in Biden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs", versus the paltry 17% in the same countries who thought as much about Trump. Overall favorability for the U.S. skyrocketed 23 points since last year, but other numbers from the survey suggest the U.S. still has a long way to go to in restoring their leadership role after damage done to the nation and the world during Trump's failed tenure.
  • Texas' corrupt Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing still more trouble. Sad! The state's top law enforcement official is already facing multiple indictments on felony securities fraud in Texas, even as the FBI is now investigating him for abuse of power, following a complaint to the feds by eight of his own top staffers. Now, as AP reports in an exclusive today, Paxton is also in trouble with the Texas Bar Association, which is investigating a complaint brought after the frivolous lawsuit he filed at the U.S. Supreme Court last year to overturn the Presidential election results in four states won by Biden. That case --- which the state's own solicitor general refused to represent at SCOTUS --- was thrown out by the high court. Now Paxton faces potential disbarment in the Lone Star State, even as he faces a primary challenge from George P. Bush (Jeb's kid) before next year's election.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen has more on both the KeystoneXL victory and Line 3 protests in our latest Green News Report, with still more news on the G7's feeble efforts to support renewable energy last year and the collapse --- and restart --- of Biden's negotiations with Congressional Republicans on his massive and long-overdue infrastructure proposal...

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Guest: 9th generation West Virginian Robyn Kincaid; Also: Keystone XL is over!; COVID vaccines for the world; Biden to reportedly close Gitmo...
By Brad Friedman on 6/9/2021 6:15pm PT  

Yes. We're obsessed of late with Joe Manchin on The BradCast. But that's only because the fate of the entire progressive Biden and Democratic Party agenda is now being blocked by him...which also means the fate of American Democracy and even life on Planet Earth depends on the seemingly inexplicable whims of one obstructionist Democratic Senator from West Virginia. Other than that, no biggie. Why obsess? [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]

Before diving back headlong into that frustration today with someone whose endured it first-hand far longer than many of us, some slightly more encouraging news today, beginning with the rather huge breaking news that broke, literally, as we began today's show.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is dead. Kaput. Over. Done. Yeah, we know you've heard that before, but this time it's the pipeline's owner themselves, TC Energy (formerly TransCanada), conceding that their 13-year dream of a massive 1,200 mile pipeline to ship 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil each day from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas for shipment overseas amid catastrophically dangerous global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels is now, officially, cancelled. That, after Joe Biden cancelled the permit granted to the company by Donald Trump. And while we've got some other good-ish news items today, that one will likely prove to be the most expansive and enduring. Finally.

As far as news we'd actually planned to cover today, President Biden will reportedly commit at the G7 in Britain this week to buying some 500 million doses of COVID vaccine to donate to nations who desperately need them, as infection and death rates plummet in the U.S. while soaring in much of the world. The announcement will come as a new, highly transmissible and more dangerous viral variant is overtaking much of the UK and beginning to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The Administration also, according to NBC News today, has begun efforts to permanently close the extra-judicial, extra-constitutional detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in advance of the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to then-President George W. Bush opening the shameful Gitmo chapter in the first place. While President Obama, upon taking office, had ordered the facility to be shut down in 2009, Congressional Democrats helped block that effort. Obama did, however, succeed in radically reducing Gitmo's prison population from about 250 to about 40 until Donald Trump stopped the U.S. relocation program. Biden's Administration reportedly hopes to close the facility permanently during his first term.

While Presidents can take certain Executive Actions regarding things like vaccines and Gitmo, acts of Congress are needed for the big stuff. Which bring us --- maddeningly enough --- back to Manchin today. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's plan to bring up stuff for a vote this month that Manchin supports --- only to see all of it filibustered and blocked by Republicans --- got underway, with the GOP filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday. The measure, originally co-sponsored by Manchin and already passed by the House, is aimed at eliminating the appalling gender pay gap between women and men. Manchin announced he was "disappointed" by the floor vote that received support from ZERO Republicans, much less the ten votes that is currently required to overcome obstructionist GOP filibusters in the Senate.

But Manchin has long vowed to oppose the simple majority vote needed to eliminate or even reform the filibuster. He announced as much again last weekend when he also declared his opposition to the Democrats' For the People Act, a massive election and campaign reform bill that, among other things, mandates early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots in all 50 states, ends partisan gerrymandering, and curbs dark money in campaigns. 49 out of 50 Democratic Senators are co-sponsors. Every Republican and Joe Manchin oppose it (even though he co-sponsored the bill in 2019!) Manchin's reason for opposition is, apparently, because no Republicans support it (nor did they in 2019!), even as they are adopting voter suppression measures at the state level all over the country right now.

All of that, amid a massive rightwing effort by dark money groups led by the Koch Network to target Manchin to keep him opposed to both filibuster reform and the For the People Act, while a stunning 79% of West Virginians (including 76% of Republicans in the state!) support the Democrats' sweeping election reform package.

We've been trying of late to figure out Manchin's game and a way to move the country (and planet) forward through it. We've struck out so far. So today we turn to our old friend ROBYN KINCAID (formerly known as Bob Kincaid), a 9th generation West Virginian, host and creator of the progressive Head-On Radio Network, co-founder of the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Campaign and President of the Coal River Mountain Watch.

As a longtime opponent of deadly mountain top removal coal mining, Kincaid has years of experience in dealing with Manchin beginning during his days as a state official, including as Governor. If anyone has insight and helpful advice on how to deal with Manchin, it's the always colorful Kincaid, who kicks things off by explaining what it is that the rest of the nation may not know, but needs to, in order to understand him, beginning with the contention that also includes Manchin's politico father, that "No Manchin has ever voted for a Democrat whose name wasn't Manchin."

"He is the Queen of the May right now," Kincaid tells me. "Everybody is paying attention to him. He is on the lips of every political observer in the country, and he is, I assure you, basking in it."

But why the intransigence when it comes to taking the action necessary to move litigation forward that he, himself (not to mention his own constituents, in big numbers), actually supports?

"He gets hold of an idea and he hangs onto it like a junkyard dog with a bone," explains Kincaid. "For years and years, when we would talk about mountaintop removal, he would answer by saying 'We have to have balance', for about ten years. Now the word is 'bipartisan.' I don't think he fully understands how 'bipartisan' works. Because if he wants bipartisanship, it's HIS job to lean in and use coercive power and say, 'Listen, y'all can come along, or I break the filibuster.' But I don't think he's as willing to play hardball with the Republicans as he is with somebody like Joe Biden and Democrats because he is more philosophically aligned with the Republicans."

Offering a very generous benefit of the doubt that some of Manchin's institutional concerns about doing away with the filibuster are sincere, Kincaid explains that "West Virginia relies profoundly on things like Medicaid and Medicare, and forms of federal government assistance for a workforce that has been beaten and bedraggled and tormented over the years. ... I think in the back of his mind, he can foresee a future where there's a Republican-controlled Senate with no filibuster where they they can do what they wish. He knows as well as anybody else what the Republican wish-list is in the modern Republican Party of Nitwit Nero [Trump]. That is a world without Social Security, a world without the Affordable Care Act, a world without Medicaid. And that means a West Virginia that is already as...as... [heavy sigh]...as beaten down as we are, that we'll be even more so, and left to perish."

Among the many other mysteries of Manchin on which Kincaid offers insight today:

  • Is he captured by the rightwing Koch Network's dark money?
  • Is there any hope in threatening to primary him (even though he's not up for reelection again until 2024)?
  • Why would he oppose a measure (the For the People Act) THAT HE HAD CO-SPONSORED IN 2019(!) and that is so wildly popular in WV?
  • What does he want and can he be bought off, given that Democrats are looking to spend hundreds of billions right now via Biden's American Jobs and Families Plans?

We also take a few minutes to discuss Kincaid's Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act, "that has the power to stop mountaintop [coal] removal once and for all". The bill has been reintroduced as H.R. 2073 and Kincaid asks BradCast listeners to "please, pretty please, go to the phone, go to your keyboards, call, send an email to your members of the House of Representatives and say please co-sponsor H.R. 2073, the ACHE Act, because it means the world to West Virginia. It means the world to Appalachia. It literally means a future for us."

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Guest: Center for Int'l Environmental Law's Carroll Muffett; Also: An insidious reason Trump wants MAGA to think he's about to be reinstated...
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2021 6:40pm PT  

While the nation claws its way out of a pandemic and the Republican party continues to crack up --- or carry out its slow-motion attempted coup, take your pick --- a landmark moment occurred for the planet a week or so ago, which has left the fossil fuel industry reeling and describing as "Black Wednesday", even as it's received much less attention than it should have. On today's BradCast we aim to make up for that imbalance a bit. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up today, however, while Donald Trump has reportedly been telling anyone who will listen that he expects to be "reinstated" as President of the United States in August, the rightwing Charlie Cooke at the rightwing National Review confirms that reporting himself, while attempting to offer a dose of reality to his party at the same time. As he explains, even if it's true that Joe Biden and the Democrats and dead Hugo Chavez and Dominion Voting Systems and China actually did hack thousands of voting systems to steal the election from Trump (and, as he notes, they absolutely didn't), there is still no legal or Constitutional mechanism to simply "reinstate" Trump as President. It doesn't work that way in America, and the idea is, as he describes, both "otherworldly and obscene". Anyone who is deluded to the contrary, Cooke correctly explains, is "unmoored from the real world" and "living in a fantasy world" along with the disgraced former President.

But has Trump actually lost touch with reality while living in exile at Mar-A-Lago? Or is there another, more insidious reason entirely that he would want his MAGA Mob to believe he is about to be reinstated to the White House this summer? Yes, in fact, there is such a reason, as we discuss.

Then, it's on to "Black Wednesday". For context, however, we go back to an explosive report from 2018 [PDF] in which the non-profit Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) detailed a treasure trove of internal documents from Royal Dutch Shell, going back to the 1950s, revealing that the company's scientists were not only aware at the time, but very concerned about the threat of climate change due to the release of CO2 from the burning of their products. In 1962, one of their scientists warned, according to the memos unearthed by CIEL, that "greatly increasing use of the fossil fuels...is seriously contaminating the earth's atmosphere with CO2," leading their Chief Geology Consultant at the time to urge "serious consideration of the maximum utilization of solar energy."

By 1991, the company had even produced a documentary called Climate of Concern, warning of the threat of global warming thanks to the unfettered release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Just a few years later, however, Shell took a u-turn and joined with Exxon and other major fossil fuel producers to fund the climate change denial industry, while lying to shareholders about the threat of our now-worsening climate emergency and the stranded assets all such companies are likely to face in the years ahead.

That denial, however, may have come to a screeching halt a week ago Wednesday for Royal Dutch Shell, following a court ruling by a Dutch court ordering them to cut emissions by 45 percent and, on the very same day, by shareholder "rebellions" at both Chevron and ExxonMobil. That landmark day, May 26th, which our guest today describes as "sending shockwaves" through the industry, has now come to be known as "Black Wednesday".

We're joined today by CARROLL MUFFET, President and CEO of CIEL, whose report on Shell from three years ago (which he joined us to discuss at the time), helped play a role in last week's court ruling against Shell. Today he explains those "shockwaves" throughout the industry and just how momentous "Black Wednesday" will likely prove to be for Shell, Chevron, Exxon and others, after their very bad day in both the courtroom and the boardroom.

"This last week has been nothing short of extraordinary," Muffett extolls. "It's been a watershed moment for the industry, and a watershed moment for those us who have been working for decades to hold the industry accountable --- not only for its past, but for what its business models mean for the future."

For Chevron that day, shareholders voted to impose long-overdue emissions targets on the company, and Exxon's shareholders elected at least three "activist" candidates to the company's 12-member Board of Directors, displacing the company's preferred directors with climate advocates from a newly formed investment firm. The vote at Exxon was backed by major investors like BlackRock and Vanguard.

Muffett describes the "remarkable convergence" of that day. "Liabilities that we've been warning about for a decade, responsibilities that we've been warning about for a decade, and financial risks that we've been warning about for a decade, are finally no longer fringe. They are mainstream. And now it's investors and courts saying to these companies what we've been saying for a very long time."

He explains how the Dutch court held Shell "responsible for all of the emissions that result from its operations. And that includes not only the emissions that come from Shell pulling the oil out of the ground, but the much greater emissions that come when the oil and gas are sold and burned." He also details how the shareholder votes at both Chevron and Exxon ("the biggest shakeup of them all") was even more stunning in a number of ways, as all three companies will now be forced to make "significant changes" to their business models and what they invest in. In Shell's case, for example, "the court is saying that it is not enough to reduce the emissions associated with producing the oil, you effectively have to produce less oil."

That ruling has sent an unmistakable message, he suggests, to all of the major oil companies, one which they should have heard --- and, arguably did, but ignored and/or lied about --- long ago. "It's important to recognize that, if you look at the major oil and gas companies, they've been under-performing the S&P 500 for a decade," Muffett tells me. "Even before the pandemic began, they were losing money, losing value, they had begun writing off billions of dollars in assets --- phenomena that were accelerated by the pandemic. What's become clear to a growing number of investors is that these business models are putting not only the planet, not only human rights, not only human lives on the line, but they're also putting investors' money on the line. Unfortunately, that's what it took to get investors engaged."

But with both investors and courts now engaged, "Black Wednesday" has become both a "remarkable shockwave" and "a wake-up call" to investors and, hopefully, the world. "I would say that the entire future of these companies will be defined by litigation of one kind or another. How long that future will last, I don't know.  It is unlikely to outlast the litigation," says Muffett...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Also: Very good U.S. COVID news; More bad news for Exxon (but good news for the planet); Bad news for Postmaster General DeJoy...
By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2021 5:44pm PT  

We're old enough on The BradCast to remember the days when the news got really slow during the summer months after Memorial Day. These are no longer those days. [Audio link to full show follows summary below.]

Among the many and various stories covered on today's program...

  • Thanks to the Biden Administration's COVID vaccine efforts, infection rates in the U.S. are now as low as they have been since March of 2020 --- the very beginning of the pandemic --- and are still dropping. Death rates have plummeted as well. Infection and death rates elsewhere in the world, however, are still soaring. So, even while upping their efforts to get folks vaccinated in the U.S. in June, the Biden Administration is finally taking action to help the rest of the world as well, vowing to distribute 80 million doses to nations in need --- near and far --- over the next month.
  • On our Green News Report earlier this week, we reported on Big Oil's very bad day last week, which is now being referred to as "Black Wednesday" for the fossil fuel industry. It was the day that Shell, Chevron and Exxon each got very bad news in either the courtroom or the boardroom. While the news was bad for them, it was great for the planet and those of us concerned about global warming amidst our worsening climate emergency. For Exxon, the bad news was that two "activist" candidates for its Board of Directors were elected by shareholders to push the company toward a more sustainable business model. Two other climate advocate candidates, also backed by large, forward thinking hedge funds, were also on the ballot last week. But their contests, we were told, were too close to call. As of last night, Exxon announced a third activist candidate was indeed also elected to the company's 12-member board.
  • Bad news for Donald Trump's Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (who, unfortunately, is still somehow in charge of the U.S. Postal Service, despite his best efforts to dismantle it.) The FBI is now said to be investigating DeJoy for unlawful campaign fund raising for Trump and the GOP, after a report last year by the Washington Post revealed he had allegedly pressured employees at his company (before being appointed Postmaster) to give contributions to Republicans for which he would later paid them back. "Straw-donor" campaign finance schemes like that are unlawful. But while DeJoy has previously denied violating any campaign finance laws, his defense, since reportedly being subpoenaed recently by the FBI, has changed in a noteworthy way, which we explain.
  • That, of course, was just a preamble today for our coverage of the ongoing Texas Republican attempt to pass a massive new voter suppression law, known as Senate Bill 7 (or SB7). Yes, that's the measure that was blocked over the weekend, at least temporarily, when Democratic state lawmakers walked out at the end of the year's legislative session over the weekend, denying Republicans a quorum in the House and final passage of the bill for this session along with it. Nonetheless, Gov. Greg Abbot has vowed to call an "emergency" special session to get it passed in the near future.

    In the meantime, the GOP claims that the new law is needed to combat "voter fraud" in the state, even after their own Secretary of State in March declared the 2020 election to have been "smooth and secure". That, after the state's Lt. Governor Daniel Patrick offered a $1,000,000 reward for evidence of voter fraud (still no takers, apparently), and the state's Attorney General Ken Paxton (indicted on multiple felony counts of securities fraud, but still somehow in office), logged 22,000 staff hours to sniff out voter fraud, coming up with barely a handful of cases out of more than 11 million ballots cast in 2020.

    The TX GOP's "voter fraud" claims are --- as they always have been --- built on a house of blatant lies. We walk you through the real facts about their phony "voter fraud" claims today and explain why they're really hoping to get this bill passed, above and beyond hoping to disenfranchise voters of color. Also, we offer a big hat-tip to CNN's Brianna Keilar who shut down some serious bullshit lies this week by her guest, Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, the bill's lying lead sponsor.

  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest, very busy, Green News Report, including news of a major ecological disaster in Sri Lanka; bad news about global warming and heat deaths; bad news regarding water in the U.S. Southwest; tragic news about the REAL death toll from Texas' winter storm and completely avoidable power blackouts; but good news for Alaska (and the nation), as the Biden Administration is now blocking the Trump-era scheme to lease oil and gas wells in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Preserve...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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