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Latest Featured Reports | Saturday, May 25, 2019
'Green News Report' 5/23/19
  w/ Brad & Desi
Beleaguered Midwest walloped by tornadoes, floods; Study sees coastal cities inundated by century's end; LA's plan to retreat from rising seas; PLUS: Trump EPA good news and bad...
Previous GNRs: 5/21/19 - 5/16/19 - Archives...
Baltimore BOE Crippled by Ransomware Attack; 'Crapshow' Worsens in D.C.: 'BradCast' 5/22/19
Guest: Eric Boehlert on Barr, impeachment, why 'no one will break glass on the alarm'...
'Our Subpoenas Are Not Optional' (Even If Impeachment Clearly Is): 'BradCast' 5/21/19
Also: More GOP Absentee Ballot Election Fraud, this time in Florida....
'Green News Report' 5/21/19
  w/ Brad & Desi
More extreme weather for Midwest; Another coal co. goes bankrupt; BP, Shell lobby for a carbon tax (with a catch!); PLUS: Inslee and Warren unveil comprehensive climate plans...
Previous GNRs: 5/16/19 - 5/14/19 - Archives...
GOP's Amash Declares Trump 'Impeachable'; Gerrymanders Allowed Radical Abortion Bills: 'BradCast' 5/20/19
Guest: FairVote's Dave Daley: Also: Tornado swarms amid climate crisis; Ford to fire 1000s...
Sunday CSA* Toons
(* Coathanger States of America) As usual, 'PDiddie' flags the very best political toons of the week in his latest collection...
Time to Impeach Yet?: 'BradCast' 5/17/19
Guest-hosted by Nicole Sandler with Senate Judiciary Committee vet Lisa Graves and Tweeter 'GottaLaff'...
The Republican Party is a Culture of Corruption: 'BradCast' 5/16/19
Spate of GOP pol scams, indictments, corrupt pardons; Also: Are Congress and corporate media finally waking up to our woefully insecure, non-overseeable elections?...
'Green News Report' 5/16/19
  w/ Brad & Desi
PG&E caused deadliest fire in CA history; CO2 level hits milestone, exactly as Exxon predicted; Climate action delay will cost trillions; PLUS: The Impossible Whopper goes national...
Previous GNRs: 5/14/19 - 5/7/19 - Archives...
FL's Sancho: 'No Confidence' 2020 Will Be Secure After New 2016 FBI Disclosures: 'BradCast' 5/15/19
30-yr elexn chief says FBI lied in 2016; Rubio covered up in 2018; FL unverifiable in 2020...
22 Candidates, 2020 Visions:
'BradCast' 5/14/2019
Bad news CO2 landmark; Biden booed on climate, pushes back; MT's Bullock jumps in to 2020 as Dem Gov from 'red state'; Warren says no to FNC's 'hate-for-profit racket'...
'Green News Report' 5/14/19
Trump trade war hits U.S. NatGas; Admin ices Arctic Council; Houston floods as U.S. sees wettest year on record; PLUS: UK, Scotland declare 'climate emergency'...
GA Supremes Hear Case of 125k 'Missing' 2018 Lt. Gov. Votes: 'BradCast' 5/13/19
Guest: Plaintiff Marilyn Marks; Also: Trump's trade war, Congress'l war; FL voting news; NC-9 do-over primary...
Sunday Billion Dollar Loser Toons
Once again, lots of losers from which to choose in PDiddie's latest weekly toon collection...
House All Action Against Trump, with Help from Repubs: 'BradCast' 5/10/19
Guest-host Angie Coiro w/ UCSF's Dr. Monica McLemore, NARAL's Amy Everitt on what's next for abortion laws...
Trump Uses Exec Privilege to Block Mueller Report; Judiciary Finds Barr in Contempt: 'BradCast' 5/8/19
Guest: Heather Digby Parton; Also: Don Jr. subpoenaed by GOP-Senate Intel Comm...
'Green News Report' 5/7/19
U.N. report warns humans pushing 1 million species to extinction; Trump repeals post-BP spill safety rules; PLUS: Midwest flooding breaks all-time records...
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...


Guest: Eric Boehlert on media kid gloves for Barr, a country in crisis, impeachment, and why 'no one will break the glass on the alarm'...
By Brad Friedman on 5/22/2019 6:29pm PT  

Before we get to the "crapshow" in D.C. today and much more related to it on today's BradCast, a few quick, important points. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First, the St. Louis Blues, incredibly enough, are going to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 49 years. Okay, that's not all that important to most, but I've been waiting a really long time, so forgive me my momentary joy.

Second, and much more important (and disturbing): the City of Baltimore's computer networks have been crippled and shutdown by a ransomware attack for more than two weeks now, grinding all city services to a virtual halt and likely requiring a complete rebuild of everything from backup data onto new hardware. Baltimore is reportedly the 20th U.S. municipality to be hit by such an attack so far this year.

Among Baltimore city offices struggling to continue their work is their "dead in the water" Board of Elections, where all local computers are shut down with BOE employees now working remotely out of the State Board of Elections, as well as County Boards in Baltimore and Hartford. The ongoing disaster led the city Board of Elections' Deputy Director to opine: "Thank goodness it's not an election year." Um...yeah..."thank goodness" indeed. But what if it were? And shouldn't this be a much greater concern than, well, pretty much everyone is currently admitting, as city, county and state elections now rely, from top to bottom --- from voter registration to ballot programming to vote tabulation and election results reporting --- on similarly vulnerable computer networks? Without paper poll books at each precinct and HAND-MARKED paper ballots for all, it would be impossible to run an election under such circumstances. But...."thank goodness it's not an election year" and, otherwise, why worry about such crazy "conspiracy theories" as the ones we've been warning about for more than 15 years now?

In other, yes, related news: the Donald Trump Presidency continues to swirl still deeper into the bowels of its own disastrous making while the continuing stand-off with Congress intensifies and more bad news arrives from the federal courts for this President. Today, among too many other things, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Congressional Democratic leadership to discuss the growing cries for an official impeachment inquiry and emerged to declare that "the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up". That completely unsurprising statement was used as a predicate for Trump to storm out of a planned meeting at the White House with Democratic leaders on an infrastructure bill after just three minutes. He then held what media falsely characterized as an "impromptu" news conferences in the Rose Garden where the President discussed "the i-word" and, with a straight face --- in front a pre-printed sign inaccurately declaring "No Collusion, No Obstruction --- claimed to be "the most transparent President, probably, in the history of this country" and that he doesn't "do cover-ups".

Hours later, his ongoing efforts to cover-up his financial records was dealt a second blow this week by a second federal judge who flatly rejected the Trump family's attempt to block Deutsche Bank and Capital One from turning over Trump financial records in response to a lawful Congressional subpoena. Earlier this week a different federal judge found similarly against Trump's attempt to cover up his financial records held by private accounting firm Mazars USA, which are also the subject of a separate lawful Congressional subpoena. And, all of that is related, as we explain, to the cover-up payments to Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen who was "directed" by Trump to give hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels just prior to the 2016 election to cover-up their alleged affair.

Of course, as Trump's administration continues to cover-up their own growing private email server scandals (remember that li'l problem they had with Hillary Clinton about that?), the man who has helped carry off Trump's greatest cover-up to date (at least that we know of, so far) is his new Attorney General, cover-up artist and personal fixer William Barr. Our guest today, author and media critic ERIC BOEHLERT argues Barr has not been appropriately held to account by the corporate media, even after being found in contempt by the House Judiciary Committee for failing to answer a lawful Congressional subpoena to hand over the full Mueller Report and its underlying evidence. Boehlert explains as he wrote this week, where and why he sees the corporate media dropping the ball.

"New York Times, Washington Post --- they haven't called for his resignation," Boehlert tells me. "It is inconceivable what Bill Barr could possibly do which would trigger major newspapers in this country to call for his resignation. People say, 'Well, who cares? He's not going to resign.' That's true, but, it sends this message that we are in a crisis. We are in a possibly defining crisis in American history. But these major news organizations don't want to go there. They don't want to raise the temperature."

The crisis he refers to, of course, has "been a problem since Inauguration Day 2017, [but] no one will break the glass on the alarm."

We also discuss whether Congressional Democrats are falling short as well, as the internecine debate among Democrats in the House over whether to begin a formal impeach inquiry continues to grow and intensify. Among the many points discussed in that conversation: whether the conventional wisdom that Senate Republicans would never vote to convict and remove Trump from office is actually true...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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Also: More GOP Absentee Ballot Election Fraud, this time in Florida...
By Brad Friedman on 5/21/2019 6:05pm PT  

The Constitutional Crisis in D.C. continues to heat up on today's BradCast, following Monday's directive from the White House that former White House Counsel Don McGahn should defy a lawful Congressional subpoena to appear for testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and Monday's ruling by a U.S. District Court judge that Donald Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, must turn over financial documents from Trump within the next week, as subpoenaed by Congress. And we've got a new case of GOP election fraud tossed into the mix with everything else today, as well. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below.]

McGahn did not appear Tuesday morning at the Judiciary Committee, defying his subpoena and prompting a public upbraiding from the panel's Democratic Chair Jerry Nadler who declared "our subpoenas are not optional" and vowed the Committee would hear McGahn's testimony "even if we have to go to court to secure it." Nadler added that Democrats will not be deterred from their Constitutionally mandated oversight investigations and "will hold this President accountable, one way or the other."

The "other" way, of course, is via an official impeachment inquiry in the House, which is now being sought by more and more House members, including several both in Democratic leadership and serving on the Judiciary Committee, which would take the lead in such an inquiry. Proponents of an impeachment inquiry now reportedly includes Chairman Nadler himself. He is said to have made the case to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday night, while she reportedly maintains that such an inquiry would hold up both legislation as well as other investigations in the House. Nonetheless, calls for impeachment proceedings from House Democrats are getting louder and appear more inevitable with each passing day and each defied subpoena, even with court rulings favoring Democrats to date. That could change as Trump takes his cases to Courts of Appeal or the GOP's stolen U.S. Supreme Court, as the Administration clearly hopes.

But, even conservative Republican Rep. Justin Amash (MI) is sticking to his guns following his weekend Twitter thread in which he declared the redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller reveals that Trump "engaged in impeachable conduct," displaying a "pattern of behavior that meet[s] the threshold for impeachment." Amash pushed back against his fellow Republican critics in a new Twitter thread on Monday. The founding House Freedom Caucus member shot down a number of limp and uninformed defenses and excuses offered by Trump, his Attorney General Bill Barr and other apologists who wrongly claim the President could not have obstructive justice --- despite the mountain of evidence presented by Mueller of repeated instances --- because there was no "underlying crime" that Trump was attempting to obstruct. All of that, as Amash explains, is simply false from top to bottom.

Also today, more breaking news of yet another case of Republican absentee ballot election fraud, this time in Florida. The latest incident comes on the heels of a GOP absentee ballot fraud scandal that resulted in North Carolina calling a do-over election for this September after the State Board of Elections refused to certify last November's tainted contest in the 9th Congressional District. The newly exposed case was from earlier in 2018, in Miami, where a WhatsApp chat log obtained by the Miami New Times appears to reveal campaign supporters and organizers for a Republican running for a seat on the Miami-Dade's County Commission describing the theft and destruction of absentee ballots cast for their opponents. The incident offers yet more evidence that voting by mail --- unless absolutely necessary --- remains a terrible idea, as we have long argued (despite many Democrats, including lots of friends, readers and listeners in Oregon and other states with all Vote-by-Mail elections, who feel quite differently about it.)

Lastly today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as 67 tornadoes blew through half a dozen states over the weekend and at least another 21 continue to wreak over the past 24 hours in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, where millions of Americans are now under flash flood warnings. Also on today's GNR, another coal company bankruptcy, a new scammy effort by BP and Shell to lobby for a carbon tax, and the introduction of comprehensive new plans to take on our climate crisis by two different 2020 Democratic hopefuls...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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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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A spate of GOP pol scams, indictments and inappropriate pardons from D.C. to GA to MI and beyond; Also: Are Congress and corporate media finally waking up to our woefully insecure, non-overseeable elections?...
By Brad Friedman on 5/16/2019 7:04pm PT  

It's hardly breaking news at this point, but the GOP and its politicians now represent little more than a complete culture of corruption from top (Donald Trump) to bottom (find a state, pick an elected Republican). Among the tiny sampling of new stories covered on today's BradCast which bear that out. [Audio link to full show is posted below]...

  • The EPA's Office of Inspector General finds that disgraced former EPA chief Scott Pruitt owes tax-payers at least $124,000 for improper first-class flights and fancy hotels from during just 10 months of his reign before he was ultimately forced to resign. That, among nearly $1 million misappropriated for unnecessary, improperly approved security personnel and staff travel. The agency says it has no intention of asking Pruitt, who is now working for coal companies, to repay the money, of course;
  • But, since a fish rots from the head down, it's only appropriate to note that Donald Trump, on Wednesday evening, pardoned his billionaire pal and business partner, Conrad Black, who spent three years in jail on fraud and obstruction of justice charges after bilking millions from investors in his media company. But, he then said nice things about Trump in 2015 and has since written a book that fawns over the President titled Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. So, he's now officially pardoned by the President! Trump also pardoned Patrick Nolan, a former GOP leader of the California state assembly yesterday. Nolan was convicted on federal racketeering charges, but he recently criticized the Mueller investigation on behalf of the American Conservative Union, where he now works, so he gets a pardon too!;
  • The Republican Culture of Corruption hardly ends in D.C., however. On Tuesday, Georgia's newly elected Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was indicted on 38 felony counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Before reportedly being elected on Georgia's 100 percent unverifiable voting systems last November, Beck allegedly used a fraudulent scheme to embezzle money from a state-run insurance association he ran through several private companies he ran and then to the Georgia Christian Coalition. He has refused to resign but, on Thursday, the state's new (and similarly corrupt) Republican Governor Brian Kemp "suspended" him, whatever that means, while Beck fights the 38-count federal indictment;
  • In Michigan on Wednesday, state Rep. Larry Inman was indicted on charges of attempted extortion, soliciting a bribe and lying to the FBI. (Trump better have plenty of ink in his pardon pen!) According to text messages included in the indictment, the GOP super-genius texted a union rep for contributions in exchange for his and his colleagues votes against a measure that would repeal a law requiring union wages, along with the text message: "We never had this discussion";
  • But, of course, there are dirty Dems as well. But Republicans are so corrupt these days, they are even letting THEM off the hook...for some odd reason. A high-profile law firm in Boston was found by Federal Elections Commission staff investigators to have unlawfully reimbursed its attorneys for campaign contributions to Democrats to the tune of more than a million dollars in donations. The FEC lawyers recommended a further investigation to the FEC Commissioners, but they voted 2 to 2 on party lines to end the case without any further probe. You'll be shocked to learn the 2 Republicans on the Commission voted AGAINST the further probe, while the Democrat and Independent appointees both voted in favor of it. FEC Chair Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, the lone Democratic appointee, told the Boston Globe: "In every case, it doesn't matter whether Democrats or Republicans are subject of the complaint, the Democrats want to enforce the law and the Republicans don't. It's an ideological opposition to enforcing the law." That sounds about right. It's a Republican Culture of Corruption;
  • Next, a bit of a follow-up to our interview yesterday with 30-year Leon County, Florida Election Supervisor Ion Sancho, after news broke this week that the election systems of two Florida counties were said to have been penetrated by Russian Intelligence prior to the 2016 Presidential election, according to the FBI. The Bureau is currently forbidding state officials, and now members of Congress, from informing the public about which counties those are and if, in fact, there are more of them. Florida's U.S. House delegation is hopping mad about it all, as was Sancho yesterday. It should also be noted here that Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was told about much of this last year, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but said nothing even as his fellow Senator from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson, also then an Intel Committee member, was excoriated before last year's election for noting publicly that Russia had penetrated the Sunshine State's electoral system. He was right. But Rubio said nothing as Nelson was portrayed as an insane old conspiracist. In the bargain, Nelson ended up narrowly losing (according to FL's unverified results) to Rick Scott, the state's then Republican Governor;
  • All of this mess, at least, has resulted in at least a few Republican and Democratic officials suddenly becoming alarmed about the dangers posed by vulnerable computerized voter registration and tabulation systems that cannot be overseen by the public to assure they have not been manipulated by hackers and have reported election results as per the voters' intent. George W. Bush's former cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke appeared on yesterday's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell to make that case, and to warn about the dangers of electoral manipulation from foreign sources that awaits in 2020. We share a clip and note that it's not only foreign sources such as Russia we must be concerned about. But, hey, after more than 15 years of our yelling and screaming about exactly these issues, at least a few elected officials and folks in the corporate media are finally beginning to notice. A little. Whether they have any clue regarding what to do about it is a separate matter all together. So, we'll keep shouting;
  • Finally Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report with disturbing news following last year's historic deadly fires in California, new evidence that our climate crisis is worsening (and that Exxon knew precisely about where we'd be today decades ago), and some other "impossible" news worth tuning in for...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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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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Leon County's 30-year veteran Election Supervisor tells us FBI lied about hacks in 2016; Rubio covered up in 2018; FL ballots will be unverifiable in 2020; calls NSA 'leaker' Reality Winner a 'heroine'; warns new GOP law means 'Jim Crow' has returned to the Sunshine State
Also: Trump's Iran war threat; AL bans almost all abortions; NC-9 do-over candidates set...
By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2019 6:59pm PT  

It seems that even Republicans in Florida have finally been forced to notice/admit what we've been pointing out about the 2016 election for years now. And our guest on today's BradCast, a longtime county elections chief from the Sunshine State, is none too happy about any of it. He offers several serious-as-a-heart-attack warnings about 2020 in the bargain. [Must-listen audio link to show is posted at end of article.]

But, first up today, the nation and world continue to pay a dangerous and painful price for whatever did or didn't happen that resulted in the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The Administration continued to ratchet up their threats of war against Iran on Wednesday by ordering all nonessential U.S. Government staff out of Iraq, citing unspecified and publicly unsupported claims of threats from Iran. The face-off clearly comes from Trump's ill-considered decision to pull out of the 2015 Obama Administration-brokered, seven-nation nuclear agreement which had effectively ended Iran's nuclear program. Though even the Trump Administration conceded Iran has been faithful to the anti-nuclear pact, Trump withdrew the U.S. and re-imposed crippling sanctions. He's now threatening war, for reasons that nobody seems to understand, and has deployed war ships and bombers to the tinder-box region.

Back at home, Trump's stolen U.S. Supreme Court has inspired dozens of new anti-abortion laws in state after state. On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the most draconian measure yet, a bill that would outlaw almost all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest, while jailing doctors who perform the (currently) Constitutionally-protected procedure for up to 99 years. The new law, adopted on Tuesday by the male-dominated state Senate and signed less than 24 hours later, would not only force women to carry the child of their rapists, it could also penalize doctors more harshly than the rapists. The ACLU has vowed to challenge the law which would require even pregnant 11-year old rape victims to carry their baby to term.

In North Carolina on Tuesday, Republican primary voters selected their candidate to run against Democrat Dan McCready in the do-over election for the state's 9th U.S. House Congressional District after the Republican candidate and Baptist Minister Mark Harris was discovered to have hired a GOP contractor who carried out a massive Absentee Ballot Fraud Scheme last November. The 10-candidate GOP primary resulted in hard-right, Trump-loving state Senator Dan Bishop being selected to run against McCready in September's do-over election. Bishop is the author and lead sponsor of NC's infamous 2016 law restricting bathroom access for transgender people.

But, as the nation and world continue to pay the price for Trump's nightmarish Presidency, new questions emerge (or, at least, are finally being noticed by Republicans) regarding his own supposed 2016 election victory. On Tuesday, Florida's new Republican Governor Ron DeSantis acknowledged the FBI notified him that election systems in at least two different Florida counties were infiltrated by by Russian intelligence in advance of the 2016 election. He says the FBI has barred him from publicly stating which two counties those are.

The news comes on the heels of similar (and similarly vague) allegations detailed in the redacted Special Counsel report [PDF] from Robert Mueller (see Volume II, page 50, "Intrusions Targeting the Administration of U.S. Elections"), as well as public claims in 2018 made by Florida's then Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson's assertions about Russian access to the state's elections systems were publicly ridiculed at the time by then Gov. Rick Scott and other GOPers, even though Florida's Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was told about the same information at the same time as Nelson in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Scott would go on to narrowly defeat Nelson for the Senate seat in 2018 and Republican DeSantis is said to have narrowly edged out Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on the same day. Both races were so close they resulted in unprecedented statewide "recounts".

However, as our guest today, 30-year veteran Leon County, FL Supervisor of Elections ION SANCHO explains, "recounts" in Florida amount to little more than running the same paper ballots through the same optical-scan computers which tallied them --- either correctly or incorrectly --- in the first place. Sancho, the legendary elections chief in Tallahassee, the state's capital, was so well-respected by all sides that he was tapped in 2000 to oversee FL's notoriously aborted Presidential recount that year. He is furious today about DeSantis' announcement, the secrecy behind which are the counties that were penetrated (he retired after the 2016 election), and explains that he was lied to by the FBI when he was told, during a then confidential conference call with Bureau officials in 2016, that "no county had been hacked" in the run-up to the election.

"The Justice Department has continued to obfuscate and lie about this situation from the very beginning. I was on a confidential call on September 30, [2016] in which all 67 election officials here in this state, and the state election officials, were informed by the FBI that no county had been hacked. The state hadn't been hacked. They told us that. And we now know, from the documentation that's been released through The Intercept and Mueller, that was false. We now know from the documentation, some time in early August [of 2016], the successful penetration occurred."

Sancho also now questions whether there were more than two counties penetrated and says he has no reason to trust the claims by either DeSantis or federal officials that election results were unaffected by the attack. "Here's the crazy thing about it," he tells me, "the Russian GRU knows which counties they've penetrated. The only people that don't know are the election officials and the citizens and voters of the state...it's time the American citizenry, particularly Floridians, figured out that information."

He also hails NSA whistleblower Reality Winner as a "heroine" for alerting the world to documents revealing that the Russian GRU had penetrated elections systems in Florida (and possibly elsewhere) via coordinated spear-phishing attacks that allowed them access to voter registration and website election results reporting systems made by VR Systems, a private election systems vendor with contracts in dozens of U.S. states. Winner is currently serving 5 years in federal prison for having leaked those documents to The Intercept in 2017.

Sancho demands to know "why Homeland Security decided to keep critical information from state and local election officials" for so many years. "Why weren't we told?" He also furious at Rubio and other Republicans for their treatment of Nelson when he tried to blow the whistle himself last year. "Nelson was vilified as being old and senile for saying such a ridiculous thing. And actually he was right...And quite frankly, the individual whose stock falls in my eyes is Senator Rubio, who confirmed what Sen. Nelson said, only after the election. He could have told the truth, and said that Sen. Nelson is raising a valid point. He kept his mouth shut. He put his party over this nation, and we are poorer for it today."

As to the security of the state's election systems as we head into 2020, he warns that "Florida is not well protected," adding a chilling note: "You do a reconnaissance before a major attack," he tells me, "and I don't think we've had the major attack yet."

Sancho has plenty more to say regarding Florida's move to unverifiable computer-marked paper ballots in advance of the upcoming Presidential election, and much more that I hope you'll click below to tune in for. There's simply too much to fully summarize here.

But one last point for now. Sancho also offers his thoughts today on the recent measure passed by GOP state lawmakers to undermine Florida's Constitutional Amendment 4 which was adopted by nearly 65% of statewide voters last November, allowing some 1.5 million former felons in Florida who have completed their prison sentences as well as all parole and probation, to have their voting rights restored. The new GOP measure, which awaits DeSantis' signature, would bar those newly-eligible voters --- including more than 20% of the states African-American voting-age population --- from registering to vote unless all court-imposed fines and fees are paid.

"What the Republicans did was reprehensible," Sancho rails, arguing that the bill contradicts "the overwhelming, clear language" of the statewide constitutional ballot measure. Many have described the new GOP bill as a poll tax. Sancho calls it more "cash register justice", as it will allow those with money to vote, but not those without. "This is clearly restricting the right to vote based upon who can afford to pay. Jim Crow has been reestablished in Florida."

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Bad news CO2 landmark; Biden booed on climate, pushes back; MT's Bullock jumps into race as Dem Gov from 'red state'; Warren says no to 'hate-for-profit racket' Fox 'News'...
By Brad Friedman on 5/14/2019 6:54pm PT  

A 22nd entrant into the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination contest today offers an excuse to survey the landscape a bit, for a change, on today's BradCast as both the race and the planet continue to heat up. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

Among the related stories we cover today regarding Dems fighting to shape their party's identity in hopes of both saving the climate and winning enough votes --- in the right places --- to prevail in next year's Presidential election against race-baiting criminal and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump...

  • Temperatures soared into the mid to upper 80's over the weekend at the edge of the Arctic Circle --- 20 to 30 degrees higher than normal --- while the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii measured 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the first time in human history. The two data points are related, as CO2 is the main man-made greenhouse gas driver of global warming, and as 19 of the hottest 20 years on record have all occurred since 2000. With CO2 levels having risen 50 percent since the Industrial Revolution and scientists concluding that unmitigated climate disaster is imminent unless immediate and drastic cuts to greenhouse emissions are made, what are the Democratic Presidential candidates prepared to do about it?;
  • At an event at Howard University sponsored by the Sunrise Movement to rally for the Green New Deal on Monday, Presidential candidate Joe Biden --- who was not at the event --- was booed by progressive attendees on several occasions following a recent Reuters report in which a campaign advisor suggested the former Veep is seeking a "middle ground" on climate change. Activist attendees at the rally, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who introduced the Green New Deal earlier this year, and Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, all suggested there is no "middle ground" when it comes to the climate crisis humanity faces. They, and others, such as Washington state Governor and Presidential hopeful Jay Inslee --- who has made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign --- call for a large-scale national mobilization to defeat climate change and grow millions of well-paying jobs in the bargain. We share some clips from both AOC and Sanders at the event;
  • For his part, hours earlier at a campaign event in New Hampshire, Biden declared the Reuters report "dead wrong", citing his record, going back to 1986, as a champion for climate legislation. The current front-runner (according to recent polls) also promised a major speech later this month to outline his environmental priorities, which, thanks to efforts by progressives and their support for the popular goals of the Green New Deal, are likely to be more aggressive than they might have been before the pushback to his campaign's positioning as a "moderate" who is best suited to win over Trump voters among a very crowded Democratic field;
  • And, speaking of "centrist" candidates hoping to win over GOP voters, Montana's Governor Steve Bullock officially entered the Presidential race today, touting his record as a Democrat who has won three statewide elections in a so-called "red state" where Trump is said to have defeated Hillary Clinton by 20 points in 2016 --- the same day, and on the same ballot, when Bullock won his second term as Governor. Bullock has, in fact, championed a number of progressive policies in the state --- including the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, support for marriage equality, protection of LGBTQ rights and has vetoed NRA-support gun bills. He has also been a champion for keeping corporate money out of politics in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's horrific 2009 Citizens United ruling. His climate policies, however, have been less than stellar, to say the least, as the chief executive of one of the nation's top fossil-fuel producing states. He is just one of at least four Presidential candidates, or would-be candidates, who many Democrats would prefer to see running for the Senate to help flip it "blue" in 2020;
  • But can any Democrat --- even those running as so-called "centrists" --- actually change the minds of previous Trump voters? Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas argues it can't be done and is a waste of time and resources for Democrats who, he writes, must focus instead on winning "young voters, voters of color, and women," given that "No one will be changing their mind in the next year and a half." He offers some statistics to support his point, though I am not (yet) entirely persuaded by them;
  • Progressive Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, explained her reasons today for declining an invitation from Fox 'News' to appear on one of their town halls. Though Sanders and Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar have already done one --- and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are scheduled to do one soon --- the Massachusetts Senator makes the case today that Fox is a "hate-for-profit racket" and she's unwilling to add to those profits with an appearance there. She does, however, welcome them to ask her questions at many of the other town halls she has participated in all over the country during her Presidential campaign since January, including many of them in GOP-dominated states "including WV, OH, GA, UT, TN, TX, CO, MS & AL". But, while Warren's stand on principle deserves much respect, is it a strategic mistake to miss the opportunity to reach out to many voters who might otherwise hear little more than Fox' fake news and GOP propaganda? We discuss and welcome your thoughts as well. (Email me or leave them in comments below. Keep 'em short and sweet and I may share them on air later this week);
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as Trump's trade war with China hits the U.S. natural gas industry, as the Administration frosts the Arctic Council, as Houston floods again following the nation's wettest year on record, and as the UK, Ireland and Scotland stand up to declare a "climate emergency" and present their own versions of AOC and Markey's Green New Deal revolution...

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Guest: Plaintiff Marilyn Marks; Also: Trump trade war sends markets plunging; Trump's Constitutional Crisis with Congress continues; Good news for FL voters; NC-9's do-over primary election...
By Brad Friedman on 5/13/2019 6:48pm PT  

On today's BradCast, Trump-induced chaos continues to worsen, from China to the U.S. Congress, and the fights over 2018 and 2019 elections continue in Georgia and North Carolina, while a court ruling in Florida will make things a bit easier for voters in 2020. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First up today, Donald Trump sends world markets --- including the Dow, which dropped more than 600 points on Monday --- plummeting, after China announces plans to respond to Trump's newest 25% tariff on $200 billion in Chinese goods on Friday. Today China announced they plan to institute retaliatory tariffs on some $60 billion in U.S. exports and may cut off sales from certain companies entirely. So, Americans are left paying exorbitant new import taxes (tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the U.S. are taxes paid by U.S. companies and consumers, they are NOT paid by China, as Trump keeps falsely asserting), and now financial markets are taking an additional hit. Experts worry the dispute could soon nudge the economy into recession if a trade deal is not brokered. Trump has since threatened to add new taxes on all goods made in China if they refuse to kowtow to his demands.

At the same time as Trump is playing out his ill-considered foreign trade war, he is also expanding his domestic war against Constitutionally-mandated oversight by the Legislative Branch. A weekend analysis by the Washington Post finds Trump and his allies are now blocking more than 20 separate Congressional investigations "into his actions as president, his personal finances and his administration's policies" in what experts --- and even former Republican Congress members and legal staffers --- cite as a deepening crisis of unprecedented proportions between the two co-equal branches.

From Florida, however, we have a bit of good news from a federal court, where a judge has ruled that the state must follow the Voting Rights Act by supplying election materials and assistance for Spanish-speaking voters in advance of the 2020 primaries. The ruling is key for the tens of thousands of new Spanish-speaking Florida voters who moved to the Sunshine State from Puerto Rico following the devastation of 2017's Hurricane Maria.

In North Carolina on Tuesday, Republicans voters in the state's 9th Congressional District will select their nominee to run against Democrat Dan McCready in a do-over general election scheduled for this fall, after the state refused to certify a winner from last November's contest following the revelation that the Republican candidate (and Baptist minister), Mark Harris, was found to have hired a GOP contractor who carried out a massive absentee ballot fraud scheme on his behalf. In February, after some remarkable testimony, the state scheduled a new election. Tuesday's GOP primary in NC promises to be a bit of a circus with 10 --- um, colorful --- Republicans running for the nod. If none of receive more than 30% of the vote, there will be a runoff in September, with the general election then pushed back to November. The U.S. House seat in NC-9 will remain vacant until then, as 2018's last undecided election is finally completed near the end of 2019.

In Georgia, meanwhile, results from a 2018 race are still being challenged in court, after more than 125,000 votes cast in last November's race for Lt. Governor appeared inexplicably "missing". The unusually large undervote rate in that contest does not appear in any others races, including statewide elections much farther down the ballot (eg. Sec. of State, Insurance Commissioner, etc.)

Moreover, the missing votes only appear to have occurred on ballots cast at the polling place, where voters are forcced to use GA's 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems. Hand-marked absentee paper ballots revealed no similar drop-off in voting rates for Lt. Governor and, according to our guest today, plaintiff MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, the unusually large residual vote rate was also inexplicably highest in predominately African-American precincts.

"It wasn't just our speculation that something went wrong with the machines," Marks tells me. "We had the premiere election statisticians in the United States look at this, and they basically said it would be a one-in-ten thousand chance that something wasn't happening in the machines that would have caused this kind of result."

Last January, as the Coalition sought a forensic analysis of the state's voting systems and other materials needed to carry out their lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the Lt. Governor election, they were blocked by the state. Leading that fight was Republican Gov. Brian Kemp who is said to have narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams last year on the same day, in a race where then-Sec. of State Kemp oversaw his own election and was found by several court challenges to have been suppressing the vote in predominately African-American areas. Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court heard the plaintiffs' appeal in the case, after a lower state court judge dismissed it --- without even allowing discovery --- earlier this year. Marks and the other plaintiffs seek to have the lower court's ruling by Senior Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs reversed, so they may proceed with discovery, including forensic analysis by cybersecurity and voting systems experts, and a full trial.

"The dynamics of [the lower court] trial were extremely strange," she explains. "We told the Supreme Court several times that during the trial, when we were begging for discovery, begging for a jury trial, begging for a continuance because they had been blocking everything we were doing, the judge said, 'Look, I'm getting pressure to get this resolved. So, no --- you cannot have the documents, you can't have a continuance, and you can't have a jury trial.'

"Getting pressure"? From whom? "We don't know. She didn't disclose that," Marks says, "but that alone is reason to reverse her."

Marks joins us to detail how things went at the high court last week, and for an update on Kemp's new effort to move the voting systems in Georgia from its current 100% unverifiable Diebold touchscreen system, installed in 2002, to an all-new 100% unverifiable touchscreen system that prints equally unverifiable computer-marked paper ballot summary cards. On that front, Marks has been loudly opposing the move --- advocating instead ofr hand-marked paper ballots --- and offers some interesting news as well...

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Guest: Ernie Canning defends inmate voting; Also: Trump lies (again) about tariffs, economy, China; House Judiciary to vote on Barr contempt; Mnuchin refuses (again) to turn over Trump taxes; 400 former prosecutors say Mueller revealed criminal felonies by the President...
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2019 7:00pm PT  

Our lead story on today's BradCast makes everything else seem quite small by comparison. (And, no, that story is not the new royal baby. You're welcome.) Unfortunately, those other stories aren't small at all. In fact, they are almost all unprecedented as the nation continues its dark plummet into an historic Constitutional crisis under this Presidency. [Audio link for today's show is posted at end of summary.]

We cover quite a bit of ground on today's show, by necessity, if not choice. Among the stories covered...

  • A landmark, 1000+ page report compiled by some 450 researcher working with a U.N. agency, based on the data from 15,000 scientific and governmental reports warns that 1 million of the planet's 8 million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction --- many within decades --- thanks to human activity. The report finds that, more than at any other time in human history, nature itself is threatened due to human development and consumption that leaves land species finding "insufficient habitat for long-term survival" and oceans species in similar peril. While the report's authors stress there is still time to act to reverse this alarming trend, we break down some of their critical findings at the top of the show, since they are likely being overshadowed today with so much other insane news emanating from our nation's capitol and reverberating around the globe;
  • Beyond that disturbing new study, world markets opened on an alarming note on Monday --- including an initial 450-point plunge on the Dow --- following Trump's weekend tweets threatening to impose a 25% tariff on all goods imported from China by week's end. In ">his tweet, he included at least two lies, including that "China has been paying Tariffs to the USA" and "These payments are partially responsible for our great economic results." In fact, Americans pay those taxes, not China. And, as even honest conservatives who we cite on today's show point out, Trump's continuing trade war has harmed, not helped the economy, and the trade deficit with China has only gotten worse, not better, for the US in the bargain;
  • Posing an additional threat to the world economy is the Trump Administration's chest-thumping against Iran, including threats of sanctions against any nation (including allies) who purchase Iranian oil and the deployment over the weekend of an aircraft carrier battle group and a bunch of bombers toward the Persian Gulf;
  • Setting aside the Trump-caused foreign-policy and market crises, there's the Constitutional crises that he's continuing to exacerbate today here at home, where some 400 former federal prosecutors --- both Republican and Democratic, some who served as long ago as Dwight D. Eisenhower --- issued an open letter today proclaiming that, were it not for the Dept. of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, Trump would have been charged on multiple felony counts of obstruction of justice, based on the information detailed in the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report;
  • In related news, the House Judiciary Committee announced plans on Monday for a vote on Contempt against Trump Attorney General and "fixer" William Barr after the nation's top law enforcement officer's repeated failure to hand over to Congress the full Mueller Report and its underlying evidence, as per a Congressional subpoena;
  • Similarly, Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Treasury Department will also rebuff a Congressional request from the Ways and Means Committee to produce six years of Donald Trump's tax returns, as per long-standing federal statute. Both incidents --- both unprecedented --- will almost certainly now be forced into federal court for adjudication;
  • Meanwhile, in New York, Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for Trump who predates Trump co-opting of the nation's Attorney General for that purpose, offered a public statement to media before heading off to federal prison for three years on Monday. Cohen will be serving time for, among other things, lying to Congress and carrying out hush-money payments to two women with whom Trump had affairs, a criminal conspiracy "directed" by Trump, according to prosecutors, in violation of federal campaign finance laws. In his statement, Cohen said: "I hope when I rejoin my family and friends that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at the helm of our country." In other words, he hopes that voters will remove Trump from office next year, highlighting the fact that as a federal inmate in New York he will not be allowed to vote in that election. But if the man who federal officials say "directed" the conspiracy --- who would also have been charged on multiple obstruction counts had he not been the President (thanks, in no small part, arguably, to those unlawful hush-money payments made just before the 2016 election) --- gets to not only vote, but run for re-election next year, shouldn't Cohen have a vote as well?;

That brings us to our guest today, attorney and longtime BRAD BLOG contributor ERNEST A. CANNING, who penned an insightful op-ed today arguing that the notion of "inmate vote is not a radical idea". On Friday, Republican state lawmakers in Florida enacted a measure that would undermine Sunshine State voters who approved a Constitutional measure in November, with a nearly 65% majority, that would restore voting rights to most former felons in the closely divided swing-state, one of just three in the nation --- along with Iowa and Kentucky --- to ban former felons from voting for life, even after serving their time.

But the idea of inmates voting, while still in prison, has been a matter of discussion and growing debate following the ACLU's recently-launched "RIghts for All" campaign, in which they seek to get 2020 candidates on record regarding, among other things, the right to vote by those still in prison. Currently, 48 states, other than Vermont and Maine, ban the practice. But, as Canning explains, "21 other democracies, including Canada, Sweden and Israel, allow all prisoners to vote." So, why should inmates lose their right to vote in the nation that incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other?

Canning, a Vietnam vet who also worked as a Senior adviser to VetsForBernie.org, explains the injustice and hypocrisy of barring inmates from voting, citing its lack of deterrent effect and noting that luminaries such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and that Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, would go on to become the formerly-apartheid South Africa's first black President and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In his article and on today's program, Canning also offers a compelling response to critics, like the President and many in his party (and in the Democratic Party, as well) who, as Trump's spokesperson recently charged, find the notion of inmate voting "deeply offensive", because it would allow the likes of the Boston Marathon Bomber and the perpetrator of the Charleston Church Massacre (both of whom have been sentenced to death), to cast a vote before being killed.

It's a long-overdue --- and interesting --- conversation that Americans of all political stripes, but certainly progressives, should have in "the land of the free", where First Amendment rights are still allowed for prisoners. So why isn't the right to vote?...

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All Americans, progressive or otherwise, should stand for what is right...
By Ernest A. Canning on 5/6/2019 11:09am PT  

The right of inmates to vote is not a radical idea. In addition to Maine and Vermont, 21 other democracies, including Canada, Sweden and Israel, allow all prisoners to vote.

Seventy (70) civil rights and advocacy groups have now joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in calling for restoring the right of all inmates to vote. Although Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) have stopped short of agreeing with Sanders' proposal, both appear to be considering it. Warren stated simply that she was "not there yet." Harris, a former prosecutor, who is focused on restoring post-release felon voting rights, acknowledged that "we should have that conversation."

Inmate voting rights advocates argue that, while the rule of law requires appropriate punishments for crimes, this can be done without sacrificing the right of every citizen to vote --- a right that provides the cornerstone for a free and democratic society. Moreover, there's a rehabilitative purpose. Inmate voting encourages prisoners, who retain their First Amendment rights while incarcerated, to responsibly stay connected or reconnect with society. Indeed, some inmates have gone on to become "eloquent advocates" for social justice.

Ironically, while incarcerated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, would go on to become the formerly apartheid South Africa's first black President and a recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Opponents of inmate voting appeal to the natural repugnance the electorate holds towards some of our nation's most heinous crimes and those who carried them out: individuals, like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted as the Boston Marathon Bomber and Dylann Roof, who was convicted for the Charleston Church Massacre.

While gut level repugnance towards these especially heinous crimes is understandable, from the perspective of societal needs, there are multiple reasons to question the validity of adding, as a form of punishment, inmate disenfranchisement to imprisonment, fines, restitution, and, in the cases of Tsarnaev and Roof, to their death sentences...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Guest: Ted Kalo, 14-year veteran House Judiciary attorney, details what comes next; Also: Good news for voters in OH, bad news for voters in FL...
By Brad Friedman on 5/3/2019 6:48pm PT  

Our guest today, the former U.S. House Judiciary Committee's longtime General Counsel warns on today's BradCast, that we are already in the midst of a Constitutional Crisis and that what is happening now is far worse than anything he ever encountered during his many years in that post, even during the then-unprecedented corruption of the George W. Bush Administration. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

But first up today, some good news and bad for voters before 2020 out of two key battleground states. In Ohio, the good news is that a three-judge panel of federal judges on Friday unanimously found the Buckeye State's Congressional maps to be an "unconstitutional partisan gerrymander" and has ordered, via its 301-page ruling [PDF], for new maps to be drawn for use before the 2020 elections. The panel of two Dems and one Republican-appointee determined that the state's GOP-led legislature packed the majority of the state's Democratic voters into just four districts after the 2010 Census to guarantee Ohio's Congressional legislation would retain a 12 to 4 GOP advantage. Republicans have successfully held 75% of that delegation over the past decade despite receiving just more than half of the state's Congressional votes.

State Republicans vow to appeal, as the nation awaits next month's opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court on similar partisan gerrymandering cases in North Carolina and Maryland. A three-judge federal panel last week in Michigan similarly ordered new maps there before 2020 after finding GOPers in that state used a similar tactic to disenfranchise voters. Unconstitutional GOP partisan gerrymanders were also determined by federal courts to have been in place in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for the past decade.

The bad news for voters today comes from Florida today, where the state's GOP-dominated legislature has adopted a bill to undermine Amendment 4, the landmark ballot measure voters adopted by nearly 65 percent last November to restore voting rights to some 1.5 million former felons in the state who had completed their sentences as well as all parole and probation. Passed along party lines, state lawmakers changed the definition of sentencing to include the payment of all court-imposed fines and fees. The result: Those former felons who have money will be able vote, those who do not, won't. Once signed by the state's Republican Governor, as expected, lawsuits will almost certainly be filed by voting rights advocates to challenge the new law that appears to rewrite Amendment 4 which had ended Florida's shameful lifetime ban on voting by former felons, including more than 20 percent of the state's African-American population.

Next, we are looking for answers today about what is happening and what may come next as the Trump Administration and its new Attorney General and "fixer" William Barr harden their obstruction of all Constitutional oversight by Congressional Democrats. We are joined today by attorney TED KALO, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where he served as General Counsel for his last 10 years there before leaving for private practice in 2011. Our conversation comes on the heels of Barr's astonishing testimony before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and his refusal to appear before the Democratic-majority House Judiciary on Thursday. That, after the Dept. of Justice's failure to respond to a Wednesday subpoena deadline from the House panel to turn over a full, unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and its underlying evidence, and after revelations that Barr appears to have lied to Congress in previous testimony concerning Mueller's view of Barr's public representation of the report's conclusions during the month before Barr finally released a redacted version.

Kalo tells me what is likely to happen next if Barr misses a final Monday deadline, offered in a good faith, last attempt letter sent by House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler on Friday in hopes of avoiding contempt proceedings against the nation's top law enforcement official.

The reason why Barr supposedly skipped Thursday's House hearing was because the Committee had determined to allow staff counsel from both parties to question the Attorney General along with members, which Kalo says is "not unusual at all". He cites, for example, a similar practice carried out by Republicans "during one of the many investigations of Hillary Clinton's emails," and notes that it is "not uncommon historically" for Congressional committees to use staff attorneys for questioning witnesses.

Kalo details the two possible legal paths should Barr, as expected, continue to refuse to cooperate with the Committee and is found in contempt, including a civil litigation path in federal court, which could take months or years to resolve (though Kalo says there are grounds for courts to hear these matters on an expedited basis) or Congress finding Barr in "inherent contempt". In the latter case, he explains, the House Sergeant-at-Arms could be dispatched to arrest and detain the Attorney General. (Kalo also offers a definitive answer about the jail long said to be available at the Capital Building for such matters.)

"While it's frustrating as hell to watch this play out --- it's so obvious what's going on in plain sight --- as a matter of the goal of getting the information, Congress has to proceed cautiously because of its limited options for enforcing subpoenas," Kalo tells me. Therefore, he explains, Nadler is "bending over backwards to show that he tried his hardest to reach an accommodation with the Executive Branch, with an eye towards future litigation" where the court will see the Administration as "recalcitrant and unreasonable" and find in favor of the Dems.

Among the many other questions answered and/or explained by Kalo, he offers insight into my concerns about whether many of the long-established court precedents that appear to make Trump's legal arguments to block a number of subpoenas look ridiculous could actually be overturned by Trump appointees to the federal bench or even the GOP's stolen majority on the Supreme Court. "I think you're right," he says. "We have a federal judiciary that's been packed by people who start with the political result they want and then work the legal reasoning backwards. I think it's a valid fear that the courts won't follow longstanding precedent," before adding optimistically, that he believes the courts will follow precedent in many of these matters.

I also get his thoughts on Barr's remarkable testimony before the Senate on Thursday, arguing that a President has a legal and Constitutional right to shut down or obstruct a federal investigation looking into his own potential crimes if the President believes, on his own, that he has been unfairly accused. Yes, Barr actually made that argument under oath this week. Kalo calls the theory "ridiculous" and says, "I know of no legal authority for what the Attorney General was saying, and it defies reason." He goes on to explain why.

Finally, he concludes with a chilling note. "It can't be understated that we're in a Constitutional crisis. We're trying to respond to things that we never expected to occur from a President of the United States," Kalo argues, adding that, as dark as those years were when he served as General Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the George W. Bush years, what is happening now is worse --- "by far."

I wholeheartedly recommend you tune in for today's complete conversation, as there was much more than I am able to adequately summarize here...

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Dems call for Trump A.G.'s resignation, impeachment, may cite with contempt; Also: Hillary, Trump FBI chief warn of 2020 election theft...
By Brad Friedman on 5/2/2019 5:59pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Following a shameful performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Trump's Attorney General (and personal fixer) William Barr failed to even show up for his testimony in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, as calls for his resignation increase and as both Trump's FBI Director Christopher Wray and Hillary Clinton issue similarly warnings about the possibility of a stolen election in 2020. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

While some so-called "moderate" Democrats are only now having second thoughts about having voted for the confirmation of Trump's new A.G. following revelations this week of a letter from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Barr complaining that he had misrepresented the Special Counsel's two-year report to the American people, other Democrats, including many running for the 2020 Presidential nomination are calling for Barr to step down. When even Chris Wallace of Fox "News" calls out a Republican --- and the "opinion people who appear on this network, who may be pushing a political agenda" --- you know that Republican must have done something very bad.

At a press conference today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Barr's sworn Congressional testimony in early April as a crime, citing his statements that he had no idea how Mueller and his team felt about the 4-page letter Barr had released, inappropriately clearing Donald Trump of obstruction of justice, despite the probe detailing at least 10 instances when the President appears to have done just that. "What is deadly serious is that the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime," Pelosi asserted, adding: "If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law, not President of the United States and not the Attorney General."

At the same time, Barr failed to show up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today, after previously agreeing to testify. He changed his mind after facing tough questions at yesterday Senate Hearing, while citing the House panel's decision to allow staff counsel to ask questions as the reason for bowing out. The Committee's Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler, during his opening remarks before Barr's empty witness chair, slammed the A.G. for a "lack of candor" and of having "misrepresented the findings of the Special Counsel." Nadler accused him of "failing to check the President's worst instinct", for having "failed to protect the Special Counsel's investigation from unfair political attacks", for having "failed the men and women of the Department of Justice", adding that "he has even failed to show up today." Democratic members of the panel mocked Barr's absence by munching on KFC and placing a toy plastic chicken in front of his witness name tag. While he didn't yet move to hold the nation's top cop in contempt of Congress, he suggested that may happen soon.

As we wait for Democrats to take real action to hold either Barr or Trump accountable, on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night, the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton warned that "unless we know how to protect our election from what happened before and what could happen again," even the very best Democratic candidate could lose in 2020, due to the ongoing threat of foreign interference.

The former Democratic Senator and Secretary of State's comments echoed those recently offered by Trump's own FBI chief Christopher Wray. Last week, during comments at the Council of Foreign Relations, Wray claimed "enormous strides have been made since 2016 by all the different federal agencies, state and local election officials" and others," but said he is viewing whatever happened in 2018 as a "dress rehearsal" for "the big show in 2020".

We explain what both Clinton and Wray got right and wrong in their warnings and how, despite Clinton's stated concern that she might "scare" people with her language, voters should, in fact, be very worried about 2020, as jurisdictions around the nation are being allowed to implement new systems in advance of the next Presidential election that are even more difficult for the public to oversee (and thus, prevent manipulation) than many of the voting and tabulation systems they are replacing.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report with details on new climate action plans from Presidential hopefuls Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker, some good news from voters regarding climate concerns, bad climate change news for Jakarta and Washington D.C., and some good news for residents of New York State...

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Obama's Veep goes straight after Trump in campaign kickoff; Hillary's recommendations after Mueller; Kellyanne's husband wins Twitter, owns Trump; MI GOP district maps ruled unconstitutional gerrymanders; Nielsen was rebuffed in attempts to protect 2020 election from Russia...
By Brad Friedman on 4/25/2019 6:11pm PT  

We've got a lot of news and notes of concern --- both good and bad --- about the 2020 elections on today's BradCast. [Audio link posted below.]

Among the many stories covered today...

  • Former Vice-President Joe Biden finally announces that he's getting into the crowded 2020 race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. His "stirring" announcement video takes on Donald Trump directly, in a way that other candidates have largely avoided to date. Whether that will be a winning strategy, of course, remains to be seen for the man many consider to be a front-runner at this early point in the contest;
  • Hillary Clinton pens a worthy op-ed in the Washington Post, with her personal recommendations on how to best take on the question of whether Trump should be impeached in the wake of damning findings of criminality by the President in Robert Mueller's Special Counsel report, as well as how best to work to protect the 2020 election from interference --- at least from foreign sources;
  • George Conway, the conservative attorney husband of White House senior adviser/Trump apologist Kellyanne Conway, once again wins Twitter by citing Clinton's oped to slam both the President and, by extension, his own dissembling wife. He also cites another article detailing yet another new international embarrassment courtesy of Trump, to help his new, apt moniker for the President, #DerangedDonald, trend on Twitter;
  • Big news out of Michigan breaking today as a three-judge federal court panel finds district maps created by GOP state legislators in 2011 to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The court has now ordered the state to redraw as many as 34 state legislative and Congressional districts and even hold a number of special state Senate elections under the new maps in 2020, rather than in 2022 as previously scheduled. Though a decade or so late, it's still very good news for Michigan voters, though Republicans plan to appeal in hopes of stalling until the U.S. Supreme Court comes down with their verdict on two other cases of similar partisan gerrymanders in North Carolina and Maryland this June;
  • The New York Times publishes a very disturbing --- if not surprising in the least --- exposé revealing that recently-fired DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was rebuffed, time and again, by Donald Trump and other senior White House officials, in her efforts to convene cabinet level meetings on a strategy to protect the 2020 election from cyber-manipulation by Russia and other foreign sources. The exceedingly insecure Trump, according to the report, sees any such efforts to harden defenses against the threat of cyber-intrusions by Russia as a way of casting doubt on the legitimacy of his 2016 victory...for some reason;
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, as the second monster cyclone in a month bears down on Mozambique (the one just weeks ago killed a thousand people and has resulted in an extraordinary humanitarian crisis --- this new one could be even worse), along with other troubling climate change news from around the globe as well as some encouraging news here at home as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announces plans for the city's very own Green New Deal...

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Finds Russians implanted malware, but didn't check if results affected
Also: News avalanche; AOC 'looks back' from future; Callers ring in on impeachment...
By Brad Friedman on 4/22/2019 6:45pm PT  

On today's BradCast, new details from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report supporting the argument we've been trying to make for the last two years: Nobody ever checked the results of the 2016 election to make sure they were correct! [Audio link to show is posted below.]

But, first, we open with an avalanche of important news headlines breaking today and over the weekend, including the deadly Easter bombings in Sri Lanka; A TV comedian becoming the next President of Ukraine by a landslide; Trump's latest vow to impose sanctions on allies who purchase oil from Iran; Woefully unqualified Federal Reserve Board candidate and alleged sexual harasser Herman Cain withdrawing his name from Trump's consideration; The GOP's stolen Supreme Court announcing plans to take up cases to determine whether LGBTQ people may be covered by anti-discrimination civil rights employment laws this Fall; and Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton jumping into the crowded Democratic Presidential nomination contest.

Then we move to our all too brief commemoration of Earth Day's 49th Anniversary on Monday, wherein our own Desi Doyen details how and why the annual celebration first came about beginning in 1970. Of course, as we like to say on our Green News Report, every day is Earth Day for us! Nonetheless, sticking with that theme today --- for those who only notice it once a year --- we share "A Message from the Future from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez" in which the freshman NY Democratic Congresswoman, from a couple of decades in the future, looks "back" on the world-changing successes of her Green New Deal program, as recently introduced with veteran Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). The charming animated video, with illustrations by Molly Crabtree, is a thought experiment of sorts worth watching and/or listening to, as it helps explain how the GND would work to curb many of the worst effects of climate change, while providing millions of jobs and healthcare for all, as climate scientists have repeatedly warned the world must do within the next decade or face unstoppable consequences that threaten the entirety of human civilization.

Then, we move on to the revelation from the redacted Mueller Report [PDF] which has caused my Twitter feed to go somewhat bonkers since I cited it over the weekend. As the Special Counsel's report reveals (Vol. 1, pages 51-52, in the section entitled "Intrusions Targeting the Administration of U.S. Elections"), Russian intelligence operatives at the GRU targeted and infiltrated "individuals and entities involved in the administration of the [2016] elections. U.S. state and local entities, such as state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and county governments, as well as individuals who worked for those entities. The GRU also targeted private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election-related software and hardware, such as voter registration software and electronic polling stations."

In other words, voter registration databases AND voting systems, such as voting machines and tabulators. Mueller's report goes on to concede that though the GRU was successful in implanting malware on a number of the targeted computers, "the [Special Counsel's] Office did not investigate further [and] did not, for instance, obtain or examine servers or other relevant items belonging to these victims." Instead, as Mueller writes, "The Office understands that the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the states have separately investigated that activity".

Only problem with that? As we have reported repeatedly over the past two years, Jeanette Manfra, the top DHS official in charge of overseeing cyber-intrusions of critical infrastructure such as voting and tabulation systems, conceded during a June 2017 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that her department had not, in fact, conducted any forensic analyses of computer voting and tabulation systems or servers following the 2016 Presidential election. We play a clip from her Senate testimony to that end.

As far as we can tell, this means that nobody has ever conducted such an analysis, despite the stunning results of the 2016 Presidential election. That remains very troubling, considering that Trump reportedly won, very narrowly, by less than 80,000 votes total in the key swing-states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, none of which had voted GOP in a Presidential election for decades until 2016. The margins --- as reported by computers, but never verified by humans --- were close enough in each of those states that, had an average of just two votes in each precinct in each of those states been recorded for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, she, not he, would be President now.

Moreover, as the Mueller Report also documents, Trump's then Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort offered briefings and internal polling data to his business associate Konstanin Klimnik, a Ukrainian national tied to Russian intelligence, "on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort's plan to win the election," including what Manafort's partner Rick Gates described to the Special Counsel as "discussion of 'battleground' states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota."

So, at this point, that means nobody still knows whether Donald Trump was actually the legitimate choice of the voters who comprise the Electoral College. (We already know he lost the popular vote by some 3 million votes.) Most of those very same computer systems will be used once again in the 2020 Presidential election, though some --- for example in Philadelphia, the entire state of Georgia, Los Angeles County and elsewhere --- are being replaced with newer systems that are even more difficult for the public to oversee to ensure reported results reflect actual voter intent.

And, with all of that today, we open up the phone lines to listeners for thoughts on whether --- given the findings of the Mueller Report, including Trump's well-documented and repeated attempts to unlawfully obstruct the investigation itself --- Democrats in Congress should begin impeachment hearings or not. So far, Democrats are somewhat split on the issue, with a number of freshmen in the House calling for impeachment proceedings to begin and, so far, only Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) among the current Presidential candidates offering a clarion call for members of Congress to meet their Constitutional duties by officially investigating Trump's alleged high crimes and misdemeanors via an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House and a vote on whether to convict and remove Trump from office in the U.S. Senate. Our callers offer somewhat mixed feelings as well, as you'll hear on today's very busy and fast-moving BradCast!...

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Guest: Author, election law professor Joshua A. Douglas; Also: Notre Dame Cathedral burns; Trump flouts the law, endangers Congresswoman; Buttigieg makes it official; GOPers in AR and TN move to game elections...
By Brad Friedman on 4/15/2019 6:22pm PT  

Among the many stories we cover, before getting to our guest on today's BradCast --- as one institution after another feels as if they are burning to the ground, either literally or metaphorically [Audio link to full show is posted below]...

  • The historic, 850-year old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was engulfed in flames today during renovations, with its famous spire and two-thirds of its roof collapsed, but its famous bell towers and Rose Windows hopefully spared;
  • The Dept. of Justice confirmed that, almost a month after Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned over his report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Trump Campaign's coordination with the effort, and obstruction of justice by Donald Trump himself, a redacted version of the 400-page report would be given to both Congress and the public this Thursday;
  • Congressional Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have agreed, for some reason, to extend their deadline for the IRS to turn over six years of Trump's tax returns until April 23, as the Administration continues to blatantly flaunt the decades-old federal law requiring the requested materials be given to Congress;
  • Death threats continued against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after the President of the United States posted a video on his Twitter feed which repeatedly used an out-of-context remark from the Somali-American Muslim Congresswoman to tie her, incredibly enough, to the 9/11 attacks, even after a Trump supporter last month was charged for calling her office to describe her as an "fucking terrorist" and vowing to "put a bullet in her fucking skull";
  • The 21-year old son of a white sheriff's deputy in Louisiana was officially charged with hate crimes after an arson spree which recently burned down three African-American churches in the state over 10 days;
  • And, on a far more more hopeful note, the 37-year old, openly gay, Afghanistan war vet and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially announced his run for the Democratic nomination for President over the weekend.

Next, speaking of elections, and before we are joined by our guest today, University of Kentucky College of Law election Professor JOSHUA A. DOUGLAS, a story of GOPers making it more difficult to register voters in Tennessee, and another on Republican state lawmakers working to make it next to impossible for progressives in Arkansas to place citizen initiatives on the ballot, after the state voted to increase the minimum wage via a ballot measure in 2018.

Douglas, author of the brand new book Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting, details a few of the stories from his book revealing how regular citizens in recent years have succeeded in pushing for local and state measures that have resulted in the expansion of the franchise, even in the face of the dark forces hoping to restrict access to the voting booth.

He shares, for example, the story of the Kentucky man who lost his right to vote for life in the state for stealing a car as a teenager decades ago, who was able to encourage his state's legislature to change the law to re-enfranchise those who have completed their sentences. And the story of the woman in Michigan whose anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative was adopted by voters last November. Both stories are told in more detail in his book. With so many stories in the news (and our program!) of voting rights being taken away or otherwise restricted, its important for folks to understand they can actually change that equation without relying on Congress or even major civil rights groups, often by taking action themselves.

"What I like to focus on, in addition to the doom and gloom that seems to invade our psyche with respect to the right to vote, are the positive stories of progress and success," Douglas tells me. "There's power in these inspiring stories that I tell in the book about ways to make our voting process more convenient and inclusive. We can quibble about some of the details, but hopefully the overarching message that we need to take back our elections through local grassroots work can really take hold."

With those hopeful notes, Douglas offers a list of groups and initiatives in his book who readers can contact and be inspired by to take action in their own home towns and states. We also discuss several emerging initiatives to expand access to voting, such as restoring voting rights to the incarcerated and even lowering the voting age to 16 (which is already being done for local elections in several jurisdictions!), as well as a number of initiatives on which we do not agree. That, of course, underscores the beauty of democracy...when we can actually find it. (Oh, and here's the link to where you can buy the book and a ticket to Josh's June 20 appearance at The Last Bookstore appearance here in L.A., as mentioned on the show!)

All of that, and even a quick --- rhyming --- listener call on today's program!...

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Guest: ACLU's Phil Aroneanu; Also: Nielsen out at DHS, as Trump's far-right agency purge rolls out amid immigration crisis; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 4/8/2019 6:19pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Two tracks, plus callers, as the Right ascends at the White House and the ACLU's fight to restore civil and Constitutional rights finds its way into the 2020 President campaign. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

The hardliners are rising at the White House today, as Trump continues to purge top officials from several different key agencies, including the sprawling Dept. of Homeland Security (Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign on Sunday); Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ron Vitiello, Trump's nominee to head the agency was suddenly withdrawn last week after already clearing a key Senate hurdle); U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (both its Director and General Counsel were purged today); the Secret Service (its Director Randolph "Tex" Alles is now said to be leaving); and the bloodbath is continuing at other agencies as well. All of that as the number of families seeking asylum at the southern border continues to increase despite --- or, perhaps, because of --- a number of failed Trump Administration policies.

Moreover, on Monday, the foreign policy hardliners at the White House are ascendant at well, as the Administration is announcing its designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. It's the first time the U.S. has designated a foreign government entity in such a way, and the move is reportedly opposed by top Pentagon and CIA officials who fear blow-back to American troops and intelligence operatives abroad. Indeed, Iran has already responded by calling for U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, to be designated as a terrorist organization in response.

Amidst this latest disturbing lurch to the hard-right by the Trump Administration, some of us continue to look forward to 2020 when voters can, hopefully, do something about it. To that end, for the first time in its storied history, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is jumping into electoral politics in a major way this year, recently announcing they are spending $30 million to help get 2020 candidates on the record when it comes to a number of important issues for civil libertarians, including some that are quite thorny politically.

For example, the group's new national RightsForAll.us campaign seeks to force candidate to answer as to whether or not they support decreasing the bloated U.S. prison population by 50 percent (and, if so, how); allowing the incarcerated to vote (currently, only Maine and Vermont do so); and whether they would supporting overturning the Hyde Amendment (which bars the use of federal funds for abortion, other than in cases of rape, incest or protection of the life of the mother).

We're joined today by the ACLU's Digital Organizing Strategy Director PHIL ARONEANU to discuss the initiative, including whether some of the "thorniest" questions for candidates (as available at the campaign's website) on Voting Rights, Criminal Justice Reform, Immigrants' Rights and Reproductive Freedom might, in fact, become a liability for those candidates if they answer them one way or another. That, in an age when one of the greatest threats to civil liberties and Constitutional rights clearly continues to be the man in the White House, who Democratic candidates will have to defeat to see any possibility of the restoration of such rights.

So, how does the ACLU, a non-partisan organization, respond to some of those questions and concerns? Tune in for my conversation with Aroneanu today to find out.

Then, we open up the phone lines today for listener thoughts on all of the above. You'll not be shocked to learn, they have many...

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Guest: Suzanne Almeida of Common Cause; Also: Lack of campaign finance charges against Don Jr., Manafort threaten 2020 elections...
By Brad Friedman on 3/27/2019 6:02pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Something seemingly very interesting may have occurred at Tuesday's oral arguments on two separate, if related, partisan redistricting cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. The results, believe it or not, could change the outcome from what many voting rights advocates had previously predicted following the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the subsequent seating of his far-right replacement Justice Brett Kavanaugh. [Audio link to complete show is posted at end of article.]

The scourge of state legislative and Congressional maps drawn for partisan advantage by the party in power after a decennial Census has crippled democracy and the voting power of citizens for decades in the U.S. But the GOP dramatically upped the stakes following the 2010 Census when they employed highly sophisticated computer mapping techniques to ensure themselves huge electoral advantages over the ensuing ten years by drawing extremely partisan maps that "packed" Democrats into a small number of districts or "cracked" them among several in order to dilute the voting power of non-Republicans.

It's a practice that Democrats have carried out as well, if not to the same extreme as Republicans who took over many statehouses in the 2010 "red wave" election. A new analysis from AP finds that 2018's "blue tsunami" election, for example, would have been much larger for Congressional Democrats, were it not for many extremely partisan GOP-drawn maps in a number of key states, including North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alabama and Texas. The AP study finds "Republicans won about 16 more U.S. House seats" than they would have under fair maps. Similarly, "Republicans' structural advantage might have helped them hold on to as many as seven [state legislative] chambers that otherwise could have flipped to Democrats."

While the U.S. Supreme Court has long found gerrymanders on a racial basis to be unconstitutional, they've yet to affirm the many lower court rulings finding partisan gerrymanders to be similarly unconstitutional. Last term, when many believed SCOTUS was prepared to do so, the Court punted instead on several cases of extreme partisan maps in Wisconsin, North Carolina and elsewhere, before Justice Kennedy --- thought to have been the likely swing-vote in favor of ending the odious practice --- announced his retirement.

On Tuesday, one of those cases, Common Cause v. Rucho --- where a federal appeals court determined (twice!) that North Carolina's Congressional maps were unlawfully skewed for Republicans (they've held a 10 to 3 advantage in their Congressional delegation for the past decade, despite the state being almost evenly divided between Republican and Democratic voters) --- was heard again at SCOTUS. Another case, Benesik v. Lamone, in which a single Congressional district in Maryland was drawn by Democrats specifically to remove an incumbent Republican, was heard as well.

And while many voting rights advocates have not had high hopes for either case, given the even farther-right leaning majority on the court following Kennedy's retirement, there were some surprises during oral argument, particularly from Justice Kavanaugh whose decision in one or both of the cases could change history by delivering a major win for voting rights.

We're joined today to discuss these potentially encouraging developments with SUZANNE ALMEIDA, Redistricting and Representation Counsel for Common Cause, the lead plaintiff in the NC case. She was in the Court on Tuesday for both hearings and explains what seems to have happened, offers insight on what could now occur, decries why these cases are so important, and what may happen when SCOTUS finally delivers it's crucial opinion in June in advance of both the crucial 2020 elections and the subsequent redistricting of all 50 states that will follow the 2020 Census.

"The North Carolina case is a particularly egregious case, for a couple of reasons," Almeida tells me. "One is that we have an admission. On the floor of the General Assembly, Representative Lewis leaned into a microphone and said, 'This is a partisan gerrymander. I wanted to this map to be 10-3 because it couldn't be 11-2.' That's not the way that map-drawing should work, and that's not the way representation should work in America." She also discusses, for example, how one district line drawn by the GOP in North Carolina actually splits an historically African-American college in two, so that its voters are diluted into two separate Republican-leaning districts.

As to the matter concerning Kavanaugh, who was reportedly disturbed by his own district in Maryland, where he lives, being gerrymandered by Democrats to prevent Republican representation, Almeida confirms that he seemed to want to find a standard that could be used by courts to determine if districts were unlawfully gerrymandered on a partisan basis. She says she shares "the characterization that Justice Kavanaugh has a personal interest in the Maryland case ... And he was pushing back quite strongly against the advocate for the state."

Almeida also pushed back at the notion from Justices on the right that Courts should simply stay out of these matters, and leave them to voters and the legislators who drew the maps to keep themselves in power in the first place, she tells me: "This idea that the Court has that somehow this is self-correcting, or will fix itself through the magic of the political process, just doesn't work. And that's because gerrymandering is about power, and people in power staying in power. And when the people in power have that power to make the rules and draw the lines, that's what they're going to keep doing."

She adds that comments from Kavanaugh and even Chief Justice Roberts during the proceedings on Tuesday are "reason to be optimistic". But I'll wait until the opinions come out in June before popping any champagne bottles on what could be, according to Mark Joseph Stern at Slate the "most important voting rights victory of the century so far."

Also on today's program: Speaking of 2020, some curious questions about why nobody from Team Trump --- particularly Donald Trump Jr. or campaign chair Paul Manafort --- has yet been charged with campaign finance violations regarding "soliciting" and/or "accepting" a "thing of value" from a foreign government, as clearly occurred in relation to the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a number of Russian nationals. Election law expert Rick Hasen argues that the lack of indictments brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in this matter does not bode well for the Dept. of Justice's plans to enforce election laws that bar "foreign governments from sharing information --- even information obtained from illegal hacking --- with campaigns, for the purposes of influencing the 2020 election...and beyond"...

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