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Latest Featured Reports | Saturday, January 22, 2022
Draft Trump Order to Seize 2020 Vote Systems Misrepped Longstanding GA Lawsuit: 'BradCast' 1/21/22
Also: Harold Meyerson on building back BBB; Shell's billion dollar 'carbon capture' scam...
Trump Crime Family's Very Bad Week Gets Much MUCH Worse: 'BradCast' 1/20/22
Also: In vote of historic shame, Manchin and Sinema join Senate Republicans to undermine voting rights and American democracy...
'Green News Report' 1/20/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
Breaking up Build Back Better?; Tonga devastated by volcano, tsunami; Extreme heat records in Southern Hemisphere; PLUS: Exxon pretends to care about the climate...
Previous GNRs: 1/13/22 - 1/11/22 - Archives...
On the Media, One Year In
and One Year Out:
'BradCast' 1/19/22
Guest: Eric Boehlert of Press Run; Also: SCOTUS okays release of Trump Jan. 6 records; NY A.G. details 'fraud' by Trump family; Fox Nation gets an hilarious 'hard no'...
GOP Gerrymanders 'Not So Bad' for Dems This Year? Think Again, Argues Expert: 'BradCast' 1/18/20
Guest: Brennan Center's Michael Li: Also: No fraud found in AZ; TX rejecting VBM requests...
Sunday 'National Treasure' Toons
Be sure to steal a moment for PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best toons...
DOJ 'Turning the Screws' on Path to Trump with Oath Keepers Sedition Charges: 'BradCast' 1/14/22
Guest: Marcy Wheeler; Also: WI judge bans drop boxes; OH Supremes nix GOP maps...
SCOTUS Blocks OSHA Experts from 'Protecting General Welfare' of Workers Amid Pandemic: 'BradCast' 1/13
Also: Oath Keepers charged with 'sedition'; Bernstein: 1/6 'cover-up' exceeds Watergate...
'Green News Report' 1/13/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
Offshore wind on NY, NJ horizons; Oceans in 2021 warmest ever recorded; Extreme weather spikes food, commodity prices; PLUS: Biden EPA cracks down on toxic coal ash ponds...
Previous GNRs: 1/11/22 - 1/6/22 - Archives...
Prepare for 'Juristocracy' and Literal 'Destruction of the Administrative State': 'BradCast' 1/12/22
Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern; Also: 1/6 Comm seeks McCarthy; GA D.A.'s Trump probe...
The Hilarious Death of the Pathetic Cyber Ninjas: 'BradCast' 1/11/22
Also: Biden finally calls for U.S. Senate filibuster reform to pass voting rights and election protection legislation...
'Green News Report' 1/11/22
U.S. emissions spiked in 2021, the 5th hottest year on record; U.S. weather disasters cost $145B in 2021; PLUS: NY's new Guv goes big on climate and clean energy...
Should We Feel Better About Merrick Garland Yet?: 'BradCast' 1/10/22
Omicron rising; Emissions rising; Calls for Trump accountability rising...
Sunday 'First Anniversary' Toons
Commemorating the week that was in PDiddie's latest collection of toons...
Protecting Democracy from the 'Re-Emerging Demons of Hell': 'BradCast' 1/7/22
Guest: Dr. Nils Gilman; Also: Arbery murderers sentenced; CyberNinjas fined, shut down...
1/6 Anniv: 'I Will Allow No One to Place a Dagger at the Throat of Our Democracy': 'BradCast' 1/6/22
Repubs still disinformed; Biden calls out 'lies for profit, power'; American democracy in peril...
'Green News Report' 1/6/22
Germany shuts nuke plants; Trump EPA chief, coal lobby-ist tapped as VA environment chief; Big EV news; PLUS: San Fran gets world's first hydrogen powered ferry...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Also: In vote of historic shame, Manchin and Sinema join Senate Republicans to undermine voting rights and American democracy...
By Brad Friedman on 1/20/2022 5:50pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: While this week will be seen by history as a shameful one for American democracy --- or, more specifically, for 50 Republican Senators and 2 Democratic ones --- it may also eventually become a celebrated week for all of the encouraging criminal accountability news that is now coming in on what seems like an hourly basis for our disgraced and failed former President. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the many stories covered today...

  • After a year-long kabuki drama, played out only for the benefit of obstructionist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), both have decided to include themselves in American history's hall of shame by siding with segregationists, anti-democracy activists and Republican authoritarians in the U.S. Senate to block much-needed protection for voting rights and American democracy. While claiming to support the critical, combined Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act --- which would have helped to standardize voting rights for all, combat the GOP subversion of election results, ended dark money in campaigns, blocked partisan gerrymandering in all 50 states and restored what SCOTUS broke in the Voting Rights Act in 2013 --- the two both voted to ensure none of it could happen. They chose to embrace the Senate's undemocratic filibuster rule instead, just as opponents of civil and voting rights have done over decades of American history. We put a bow on the year-long saga today, share parts of Wednesday night's maddening debate, and join Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in his vow from the Senate floor to keep coming back "again and again and again" until the job of protecting and saving American democracy is won.
  • In far less grim news today, the very very bad week for the Trump Crime Family continues to worsen. After Wednesday's devastating loss at his own packed and stolen U.S. Supreme Court, documents from the Trump White House regarding January 6, 2021 have reportedly begun flowing from the National Archives to the bi-partisan U.S. House Select Committee investigating the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. We review a few interesting points of note from the High Court's crushing 8 to 1 ruling [PDF] rejecting Trump's claim of Executive Privilege in his failed effort to block the release of thousands of documents to the Committee, including what could be some very incriminating video tape.
  • With hopes of hiding behind Executive Privilege all but dashed by SCOTUS, the ability of Trump's henchmen to avoid subpoenas for documents and testimony by the Jan 6 Committee is quickly fading as well. On Thursday, Ivanka Trump became the first family member to receive an invitation --- not yet a subpoena --- from the House Committee to answer a number of key questions about her role in January 6th, and her various reported contacts with her father that day and in the days prior. The letter from Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) makes clear that the Committee already has a great deal of information. It will be tricky for Trump's daughter, who served as a White House advisor, to avoid speaking with them. It will be a crime if she lies to them.
  • But that's not all. After New York State Attorney General Letitia James detailed evidence of years of bank, insurance and tax fraud by the Trump family this week, on Thursday, Trump's bad week became still worse. Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney Fani Willis asked a state Superior Court Chief Judge today to impanel a special grand jury in her nearly year-long probe of the apparent criminal conspiracy by Trump and many others (including WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rudy Giuliani and more) to harangue, harass and threaten state election officials into reversing results of the Peach State's 2020 Presidential election, won by Joe Biden, in favor of Trump. Willis has said she will decide in the first part of this year whether or not criminal indictments are warranted for "potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.” Uh, oh.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, covering the likelihood that Biden's Build Back Better bill, also blocked by Joe Manchin, will now have to be broken up into smaller chunks; the devastating volcano and tsunami disasters in Tonga; smashed heat records in the Southern Hemisphere; and Exxon's new ploy to pretend they give a damn about climate change...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Eric Boehlert of Press Run; Also: SCOTUS allows Nat'l Archives to release Trump Jan. 6 records to House; NY A.G. details 'fraud' by Trump family; Fox Nation gets a historian's hilarious 'hard no'...
By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2022 6:21pm PT  

Joe Biden is now one year in. Donald Trump is now one year out. Have the media figured out how to properly cover either or both of them? We discuss on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But first, Trump's troubles are getting worse by the day hour. It's been a bad 24 hours for the disgraced, twice-impeached, one-term former President. But that's usually good news for America!

As we literally begin today's program, news breaks that the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the National Archive to turn over hundreds of pages of Trump White House documents to the bipartisan U.S. House Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election.

That bad news for Trump (and good news for everyone else) follows last night's bad news for him (and good news for us) out of a New York state courtroom. NY Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating years of apparent bank, insurance and tax fraud by Trump, the Trump Organization, and Trump's children for years. She recently subpoenaed Trump and his kids Ivanka and Don Jr. to sit for depositions in her civil probe. (She is also working with the Manhattan D.A.'s long-running criminal probe into related matters.) Trump and the kids sued to quash the subpoena and, late on Tuesday night, James' office filed documents in response, detailing what she describes in the court papers as "significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”

We discuss some of that "significant additional evidence" today, along with the additional news that when Eric Trump, back in 2020, failed to quash his own subpoena, he subsequently "then invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions over six hours.” That's his right, of course. But back in 2016, while running for President, Trump described pleading the Fifth as "disgraceful". "The mob takes the Fifth," he said at the time. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" We'll see if he, Ivanka and Don Jr., soon join his "disgraceful" son Eric in doing the same, along with the Trump Organization's "disgraceful" Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who's already been criminally charged with fraud in Manhattan after also pleading the Fifth more than 500 times as well during his own deposition with James.

And then there's the new guy in the White House, who doesn't seem to be criminal or a liar or a fraudster at all. Today marked the end of Joe Biden's first year in office. It's been a rocky one at times, but also extraordinary successful on a number of legislative and economic issues.

We're joined today by ERIC BOEHLERT, longtime media analyst and publisher of the Press Run newsletter, to discuss media coverage of Biden at the one year mark, and how it compares to coverage of Trump's first --- and subsequent --- years in office.

While Biden's approval numbers have been flagging in recent months --- Gallup pegs his one year average at just under 49% --- they are still above Trump's during his entire Presidency. Nonetheless, we saw little from the media declaring Trump's Presidency was over or a failure at the end of his first year, by way of contrast with what we see from the media now, despite several remarkable successes for Biden over the last 365 days.

"It's very similar to Obama," Boehlert asserts. "If you go back and looked at his first year, first term, 'Oh his coalitions are falling apart!' Lots of doomsday coverage for Obama that turned out to be nonsense." He later adds, "Good luck going back and finding stories about whether the Trump Presidency was failed, 'How does he reset?,'" after his first year. "There was an acceptance that Trump was going to poll in the thirties, and the press just went on from there. In terms of how the coverage differs from Biden and Trump, I think that's the key one there."

Suffice to say, the difference in coverage of each President, as Boehlert details, is stark. And not in a good way. Among the other related issues discussed, above and beyond media coverage of the two Presidents: Has the media come to fully understand, much less appreciate, the unprecedented nature of this tenuous moment for American democracy itself?

"We have two sides," Boehlert explains. "A center-left Democrat doing his best, and we have a Republican Party that wants to destroy free and fair elections in America. So if you're the press, don't play that down the middle. Don't pretend those are similar choices."

"When Trump was inaugurated, the press didn't change how it covered Trump," he observes. "You would read the coverage and think Jeb Bush was President, you would think John McCain was President. You would think this is center-right, normal, traditional....not this madman narcissist. I think with the Biden era, they just want to play this game --- 'His polling is down! We've found some Democrats who are critical of him!' These aren't the times for the norm. The Trump years weren't the time for the norm. And we're not seeing drastic change." And that failure by our corporate media is not a good sign for the nation. Or the planet.

Finally today, it appears that Fox "News" is not satisfied by simply rewriting reality in the present. They are now attempting to rewrite history itself, it seems, as far as who actually killed Abraham Lincoln. Seriously. In the bargain, a Lincoln assassination expert's response to an invitation to appear on Fox Nation (the propaganda streaming service companion to the propaganda cable news channel) to discuss it, is one for the ages!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Brennan Center's Michael Li; Also: AZ County finds no 2020 voter fraud; TX counties rejecting absentee applications under new law; Giuliani, other Trump fraudsters subpoenaed by House Jan. 6 Committee...
By Brad Friedman on 1/18/2022 6:53pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The ongoing GOP effort to undermine American democracy by making it harder to vote and easier to cheat in elections continues amid the fallout from Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. While you might think Republicans would pay a price for joining him in that effort, its Democrats --- and voters in general and American democracy itself --- paying the price, even as the Big Lie continues to fall further apart with each passing day. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

As you know, Republicans have been using false claims of massive (and, apparently, evidence-free) "voter fraud" in the 2020 election as a pretext to adopt new voter suppression and election subversion laws in GOP controlled states. The fruits of those corrupt efforts are already paying off. In Texas, for example, County Clerks across the state are reporting that the state's new anti-voting law, S.B.1, is forcing them to reject hundreds of legitimate absent ballot applications in one of the most difficult states in the nation to vote by mail already.

New I.D. requirements for ballot applications have resulted in rejections of nearly half of the absentee applications in Travis County, home to the state's capital of Austin. Worse, the state's Secretary of State has yet to issue rules for how County Clerks may legally notify or help the rejected voters to cure their applications in advance of the state's March mid-term primaries. (The application deadline is Feb. 18.)

Many of the rejected applications are from voters that have been voting by mail for years. But the new state law now requires applicants to include either a drivers license number or state I.D. number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on the application. While some don't notice the new requirement and are rejected on that basis, others do include one of those numbers, but are still being rejected! Why? As Democrats had warned when trying to block the bill, the TX law now requires that whichever number a voter uses on their application must match the number on their voter registration form, many of them completed years ago. If the voter includes a drivers license number on their application, for example, but their registration includes a State I.D. number instead --- or no number at all (as is the case with millions of voter registrations in the Lone Star State) --- their applications must now be rejected. Mission accomplished?

Meanwhile, the GOP's Big "voter fraud" Lie continues to fall apart in Arizona, where Joe Biden has been confirmed many times over to have lawfully defeated Trump in 2020. On Friday, in the second largest county in the state, Pima (home to Tucson), the Pima County Attorney's Office determined that, of the 151 cases referred to them as possible cases of voter fraud after 2020, ZERO actually merited criminal charges. There remain a handful of possible fraud cases elsewhere in a the state (less than 50). But, of course, if all known cases of possible fraud in Arizona turned out to be actual fraud and all of those votes were somehow in favor of Biden, there still wouldn't be nearly enough fraudulent ballots to reverse his 10,000+ vote victory out of about 3.2 million ballots cast in the state. Nonetheless, in AZ as well, Republicans are using their lies about "voter fraud" to make it harder to vote and easier for them to cheat in elections.

But the biggest story on today's BradCast involves gerrymandering, perhaps the most critical reason our federal government and our democracy has become so seemingly irreparably broken. Democrats in the U.S. Senate this week have combined the combined Freedom to Vote Act (which, among many other critical election reforms, makes partisan gerrymandering unlawful in all 50 states) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which restores the requirement for federal pre-clearance of new election laws in states with a history of racial discrimination in elections after SCOTUS gutted the landmark provision) into one single bill called the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. All 50 Democrats in the majority claim to support the newly combined bill. Zero Republicans do. But unless two Democratic Senators (Sinema and Manchin) agree to modify the Senate filibuster rule to allow democracy-saving legislation to be adopted with a simple majority vote, none of it will become law and the GOP efforts to game elections will be largely free and clear through 2022.

For several years, experts have been warning that, following the 2020 Census, the new round of redistricting was going to be very bad for Democrats in GOP-controlled states. That, after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and later declared that federal courts may have no say at all on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, But, with about half of the new maps now redrawn by states in advance of the 2022 mid-terms (with several being challenged in state courts), are they as bad as many pundits had foretold?

A number of redistricting experts of late have suggested that the new maps aren't nearly as bad for Dems as they might have been. But is that true? We're joined today by Brennan Center's Senior Counsel for its Democracy Program, MICHAEL LI, who serves as the non-partisan organization's redistricting expert.

Last week, in an op-ed for Washington Post, Li describes the notion that gerrymandering hasn't been too bad for Democrats this year as a "misleading narrative" for a host of reasons. Experts, he notes, had predicted a bunch of safe Democratic seats would be remapped into Republican districts. "They expected Democratic seats to fall," Li explains. "But instead, what Republicans are doing is shoring up the disproportionate advantages they already hold" following the extreme partisan gerrymanders from 2011.

"In Texas, under the old maps, Democrats have 36% of the seats. Under the new maps they have 37% of the seats, so very little change," he tells me by way of just one example. "But the competition is gone. So whereas under the old maps there were competitive districts, under the new maps, even if Democrats got 58% of the vote [across the state], they would still have the same 37% of the seats, which hardly seems fair. Even if Texas turned deep blue, Republicans would have almost a 2-to-1 advantage. That's the perniciousness of the state's gerrymander."

There are other examples, in North Carolina for instance, where the maps are currently being challenged in state courts. We also discuss how the Supreme Court's unwillingness to hear partisan gerrymandering cases has affected all of this and whether or not the Court will similarly begin to turn away racial gerrymander cases as well in the not too distant future.

Li goes on to explain why the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act --- if Republicans or Manchinema were to allow it to be passed into law --- "would be a game-changer" on this issue. It "would transform redistricting. There would be a ban against partisan gerrymandering in Congressional redistricting. It would be easy to calculate and figure out whether a map violates that and, if a map does, then it's blocked from use pretty automatically, perhaps even in time for 2022 if Congress were to pass it soon."

But, alas, unless there are some surprises in the Senate this week, the bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. So, what's left? Should Democratic-controlled states, in order to save democracy itself before the 2024 elections, gerrymander their own maps as aggressively as Republicans have? As much as it pains me to do so, I have previously argued that they should. Does Li agree? Tune in to find out!

Finally, before we go, the mid-show breaking news that Rudy Giuliani and a number of others who were very close to the disgraced former President as he was attempting to steal the 2020 election have now been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel; Also: WI judge bars all ballot drop boxes; OH Supremes nix GOP-gerrymandered state, U.S. House maps...
By Brad Friedman on 1/14/2022 6:45pm PT  

We're fighting again today on The BradCast to prevent the murder of American democracy. Lord knows Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin don't seem to give a damn about it. As usual these days, that means looking both forward and back. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

On Thursday in Wisconsin, as Election Law Blog described it, a rightwing Circuit Court Judge "suddenly discovers that, despite years of use, absentee ballot drop boxes are actually unlawful." He is now ordering that ballots may be returned only in person (not by family members or neighbors) or by much less secure U.S. Postal Service boxes. Unless overturned on appeal, the ruling could have a chilling effect on critical Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections in the Badger State this year, after some 500 secure drop boxes were successfully deployed across the state without incident in 2020.

There is better news for democracy's future this week out of Ohio (of all places). The Republican majority state Supreme Court, in two 4 to 3 rulings --- with the GOP Chief Justice serving as swing-vote with the court's three Democrats --- struck down new maps for both state House and Senate districts, as well as the one drawn up for Congress by Ohio's new Redistricting Commission.

The Commission was created as part of a Constitutional amendment adopted by 71% of voters in 2015, in hopes of doing away with far-right partisan gerrymandering in the Buckeye State. Their constitution now requires maps reflect the general partisan makeup of the state, which the court found leaned 54% to 46% toward the GOP in statewide elections over the past decade. But the Republicans who currently control the Redistricting Committee drew up maps that lean well over 2 to 1 in favor of their own party!

"When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins," the court majority wrote. "[T]he evidence in these cases makes clear beyond all doubt that the General Assembly did not heed the clarion call sent by Ohio voters to stop political gerrymandering." Despite the state's narrow GOP advantage, the Congressional map proposed by the Commission would have given Republicans a 12 to 3 advantage over Democrats in U.S. House races! Shamefully, Justice Pat DeWine --- son of Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine (who, himself, sits on the Redistricting Commission!) --- refused to recuse himself from the vote --- just to give you an idea of how much the GOP is hoping to murder democracy in Ohio. Happily, it didn't work, and Democrats are likely to pick up several U.S. House seats when real maps are drawn up to meet the state constitution's (and voters!) requirements and the Supreme Court's approval.

The state-by-state, court case-by-court case slog to preserve democracy will now continue, as the two obstructionist Democrats in the Senate, Sinema and Manchin, show no signs of defending it in the U.S. Senate. A debate on the two critical federal voting rights and election protection bills they both claim to support --- the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act --- will receive a vote next week, thanks to some parliamentary maneuvering to avoid a GOP filibuster to hold a debate. But they are likely to with zero Republican votes for either measure (ten would be needed to overcome the Senate's 60-vote filibuster threshold) unless Sinema and Manchin do the right thing and vote to reform the undemocratic Senate rule. No one believes they will. But at least they'll be on record so voters can hold them accountable --- or try to.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, don't tell Brit Hume, but Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and ten of his henchmen were charged with seditious conspiracy for their part in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The deadly assault was in hopes of preventing the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory as part of Donald Trump's effort to steal the 2020 election.

We're joined again today by MARCY WHEELER, longtime independent investigative national security journalist at Emptywheel.net, to discuss what the new charges may mean as the Dept. of Justice moves up the chain of command in their investigation --- their largest in history --- of the Jan 6. insurrection and how, and if, this brings them closer to the kingpin, our failed former President.

Over the holidays, Wheeler joined guest host Nicole Sandler to lay out a persuasive case that Merrick Garland and the DoJ are, in fact, vigorously working from the bottom up to potentially reach Trump. She described how they are making headway in that regard. Today, Wheeler explains how the new charges are likely to move the DoJ closer to several main instigators of the deadly U.S. Capitol attack, including Trump's right-hand men like Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani and Alex Jones.

"What the [charge of] seditious conspiracy does, for Rhodes in particular, is it broadens what he was doing and really implicates his efforts to arm everyone," she tells me. "We knew that these efforts continued after January 6th. They still thought that Trump was going to invoke the Insurrection Act. So they were all gathering in Texas and acquiring arms to do that. That shows the continuity of plans beyond just January 6th."

She notes the new charge of sedition also "shuts up the Republicans," who have increasingly claimed the attack wasn't particularly violent, dangerous or any big deal --- and many in the media, naturally, have been going along with that idea. But with charges of sedition "the media is finally paying attention. I've had conversations with about 5 CNN people who, for the last month and a half, were saying 'Nothing was happening,' [but] now are like, 'Wow! Big news!'"

"The real point of this indictment is to turn the screws on the people that are charged to try and get them to flip," Wheeler contends, as prosecutors work their way up from those who committed lesser crimes, through the more violent and pre-planned ones, up to those behind it all.

In addition to the seditious conspiracy charges, prosecutors have added "another conspiracy for interrupting a government official's duty," she observes. "The reason I'm interested in that is when you look at these conspiracies, every single one that has ever been written in this investigation could plunk Trump right into the middle of it."

"But with Stewie [Rhodes], you go beyond January 6th. You start talking about an attack on Joe Biden. That's what I think makes it seditious conspiracy. But the added conspiracy charge of interrupting a government official, that's something Trump did," she argues. "One of things that DOJ has been focused, laser sharp since very early, is the way in which all of these rioters were targeting Mike Pence."

"DoJ is turning the screws," Wheeler claims. "They're trying to get these people to flip. That's what I think you would need to get through to Roger Stone and, beyond him, to others."

As usual with our friend Marcy, there is lot to discuss and digest. She follows all of these cases --- hundreds of them brought so far --- likely as close or closer than anyone in the country. Tune in today for much more on all of this!

Finally, just to leave today on one more encouraging note...Last week, we reported that Virginia's GOP Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin had tapped coal lobbyist turned Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler as his new Secretary of Natural Resources. But, on Friday, more than 150 former EPA officials who served under both Democratic and Republican Administrations sent a blistering letter to the commonwealth's Democratic-majority state Senate, urging them to reject Wheeler's confirmation. If Ds stick together, they would be able to use their 21-19 majority to stop Wheeler's confirmation dead in his corrupt, coal-dusted tracks...

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Also: A history lesson for Manchin; And Biden finally calls for Senate filibuster reform to pass voting rights and election protection legislation...
By Brad Friedman on 1/11/2022 6:47pm PT  

As it turns out, it wasn't an attack from highly skilled opposition mercenary warriors trained in the art of espionage, deception and surprise attacks that took down the Cyber Ninjas. It was their own incompetence, dishonesty and hopes of escaping huge court fines for failing to follow the rule of law that appears to have done them in. Or, perhaps they're just in hiding, ready to pounce again when they are least expected! [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of this summary.]

First up on today's BradCast, however, before we get to the "death" of the Ninjas and their ongoing clown show, President Biden and Vice President Harris traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday to call for U.S. Senate filibuster reform in order to pass voting rights and election protection legislation with a simple majority. That, in hopes of countering voter suppression and election subversion measures being adopted by GOP controlled states across the nation.

All 50 Senators who caucus with the Democrats (plus Vice President Harris) are on record in support of the critical Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But in the U.S. Senate, while that simple majority vote may be enough to cut taxes or allow drilling and mining on previously protected federal lands or seat Supreme Court Justices for life, it's currently not enough votes to protect American democracy. Not with the Republican Party now fully in opposition to both voting rights and democracy while Senate rules require a 60-vote super-majority to pass both pieces of legislation.

As Biden pointed out in his remarks today --- for the first time, offering a full-throated call to reform the Senate rules --- the united GOP opposition to voting rights is fairly new. Until recently, even Republicans voted in support of expanding and protecting voting rights at the federal level --- at least enough of them to overcome a Senate filibuster. But not anymore. At the same time, obstructionist Democrats Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) have refused to allow the majority to create a carve-out to the filibuster --- akin to hundreds of others in the Senate --- to adopt the legislation that both of them claim to support.

This week, Manchin even went so far as to describe the filibuster to reporters as a critical Senate tradition that has been in place "for 232 years." In fact, the filibuster as we now know it has been in place since 1975, as historian Max Kennerly explained on a Twitter thread in response to Manchin. "232 years ago, in 1790, a simple majority could end any debate," he notes. And Adam Jentleson, Harry Reid's former Chief of Staff who wrote a book on the filibuster, went so far as to alert Manchin to how much the Constitution's framers virulently opposed a super-majority requirement for anything at all, quoting both "father of the Constitution" James Madison and Alexander Hamilton from The Federalist Papers. (Which is why there is no such requirement in the Constitution.)

"Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self," Biden, a former six-term Senator, declared in his impassioned remarks on Tuesday, describing the filibuster as having been "weaponized and abused."

Whether the Biden/Harris calls in Atlanta for reform will have any effect on the clueless Manchin and the similarly disinformed or dishonest Sinema remains to be seen. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to insist that "failure is not an option", vowing a series of votes on the matter between now and Monday's Martin Luther King Day holiday.

Meanwhile, the GOP fight against election integrity may have hit a few embarrassing snags after their infamously failed "post-election forensic audit" in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona last year. As you already know, the state GOP Senate's taxpayer funded audit theater found no Chinese bamboo in the County's 2.1 million hand-marked paper ballots, but it did declare that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by even more votes than originally certified. And if you follow The BradCast, you also may know that real election audit experts discovered that even those numbers were apparently "made up out of whole cloth" by the Ninjas, whose actual count of the ballots (never mind the results on them) was off by tens of thousands.

The final report that the Ninjas and its CEO Doug Logan produced last year on behalf of the GOP State Senate, also included 77 claims of "possible" fraud in the County's reported tallies and other questions to raise alarms about the legitimacy of tens of thousands of "maybe" illegal votes.

As it turns out, however, according to a 93-page, point-by-point rebuttal [PDF] of each of those claims, released last week by the Republican-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors after months of investigation, 76 of the Ninjas' 77 claims were completely wrong.

For example, according to the Ninjas' final audit report, 5,295 voters "potentially voted in multiple counties" in Arizona. The county found, however, that, in reality, just 5 voters may have done so. (They've forwarded their findings to the state AG). The Arizona Republic's Jen Fifield offers a helpful, detailed summary of most of the key rebuttals from the County, explaining how the Ninjas got it so embarrassingly wrong on virtually every "misleading, inaccurate and false" score.

The County's response to the Ninjas' pathetic report was mostly lost, however, amid the news the next day that the Cyber Ninjas were claiming to be no more. A spokesperson announced that they had shut their doors and all employees, including founder and CEO Logan, had been let go, following a contempt ruling from an Arizona Superior Court Judge. He found that failure by the Ninjas to turn over thousands of pages of public records documenting their "audit", its financing, and their communications with officials about it in two separate lawsuits violated the law. The plaintiffs sought a $1,000/day penalty until the documents were turned over. The judge informed the Ninjas they would be fined $50,000/day instead! They then declared they no longer existed, like a ninja disappearing into the night! Except they are really shitty ninjas.

The judge has stated that their claims at insolvency in an attempt to shut down to avoid the court fines was not going to work, threatening to apply the $50,000 daily fine to individuals with the company, like "former" CEO Logan. As it turns out, Logan formed a second company last year named Akolytos, using the same business and mailing addresses as the Cyber Ninjas. But his hopes of escaping the court fines through that second company may not work either, as journalist Kim Zetter details in her latest, excellent Zero Day newsletter. SAD!

Finally, as the Northeast grapples with a brutal cold snap today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, detailing the record warmth of 2021, and the disturbing increase in emissions causing our climate emergency over the past year...

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Omicron rising; Emissions rising; Calls for Trump accountability rising...
By Brad Friedman on 1/10/2022 6:33pm PT  

As usual, there is nothing but fantastic news on today's BradCast! (Okay, maybe that's not entirely true. But the caller segment was lively!) [Audio link to full show is at the end of this summary.]

Among the stories covered and/or referenced today...

  • Don't be fooled by those claims that Omicron may be "less severe" than previous variants of the coronavirus, or that it only causes "mild" symptoms in most people. As of Monday, according to Reuters, the U.S. broke its all-time COVID hospitalization record, as hospitals are once again forced to cancel elective procedures while Omicron surges. Cases, hospitalizations and, yes, deaths are all rising, with deaths now averaging about 1,700/day (up from 1,400/day just a few days ago --- and nearing the height of the Delta surge just weeks ago.) The vaccinated are still FAR less likely to be infected, hospitalized or killed.
  • A new study released Monday from Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service finds the last seven years have been the hottest on record globally, with 2021 coming in as the fifth warmest year ever recorded.
  • And the U.S. isn't helping. We're going the wrong way. Another new study published on Monday, from the Rhodium Group, finds that American greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry rose 6.2% in 2021. In order to meet our commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement (and President Biden's goal of lowering U.S. emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050 --- not to mention, to try and save humanity), we need to decrease emissions by at least 5% each year. That said, 2021 could have been worse. One reason for the increase in 2021 was the unprecedented 10% decrease in emissions fueling man-made climate change in 2020, during the pandemic lockdowns. We're still below 2019 levels, for what it's worth. But we need to do much better. And quickly.
  • The Build Back Better Act would help that! It would, among many other transformative things, make an unprecedented historic investment in speeding the transition in the U.S. from dangerous, dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. But with that bill stalled in the Senate for now, thanks almost entirely to obstructionist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-coal industry), Dems are pivoting back to voting rights and election protection legislation this week in advance of next week's Martin Luther King Day holiday. But, of course, to pass the critical Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, they will still need to reform the filibuster, since the Republican Party is now radically opposed to voting rights and democracy. And to reform the filibuster to protect democracy, Manchin and obstructionist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Kyrsten Sinema) will have to agree to play along. Good luck with that, Dems! (Seriously. Good luck!)
  • But whether Dems successfully reform elections or not, unless those who tried to steal the 2020 Presidential election in broad daylight are held criminally accountable, they will almost certainly try to do it again in the near future. And this time they'll be better prepared. Last week at The Guardian, Sidney Blumenthal offered a fascinating, detailed report on both the January 6th insurrection and the year-long attempted coup that got us there. The dunderheads and dupes that were hoaxed into storming the U.S. Capitol were, as Blumenthal reports, merely "the tip of the iceberg". The insurrection was, he explains, merely the end result of a year-long attempt to carry out a coup to steal the election, as organized by Koch Network-funded activist and legal groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), and the secretive rightwing Council on National Policy (CNP). Those groups plotted hand-in-glove with state and federal public officials in Congress, at Trump's DoJ, at the Pentagon and, of course, at the White House itself. And yet, nobody other than the dupes and dunderheads have yet been charged by the Dept. of Justice for one of the greatest attempted crimes in U.S. history.

    During the holidays, our guest host Nicole Sandler interviewed longtime independent investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, who has been tracking the DoJ's probe and indictments of insurrectionists --- as well as the higher-ups who plotted the year-long coup attempt --- as close as anyone. Wheeler argued that those who have been critical of Attorney General Merrick Garland for not doing enough to date (including us!) haven't been paying close enough attention. She explained how the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack is working from the top-down and how DoJ (who, don't forget, raided Giuliani's home, office, computers and telephones soon after Biden took office and is still working through those documents) is working from the bottom-up. Wheeler details that both probes may almost be at the same place now, just a step or two away from Donald Trump himself.

    Moreover, during remarks last week at the DoJ to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1/6 attack and the subsequent largest investigation in the Department's history, Garland explained: "The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law --- whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead."

    So, with all of that in mind, should we feel better about what Garland and the DoJ are now up to? We open the phones to listeners to get a sense of exactly that...

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Guest: Dr. Nils Gilman of Berggruen Institute; Also: Life sentences for the Arbery murderers; CyberNinjas fined by AZ judge, claim to shut down...
By Brad Friedman on 1/7/2022 7:07pm PT  

It's been a rough week. So before we get to America's rising 'demons of hell' on today's BradCast and how we might counter their re-emergence against what is left of American democracy, a few slightly more encouraging news items to kick things off. [Audio linnk to full show is posted at end of summary.]

In Georgia, the three white men who were caught on video tape murdering 25-year old black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 after hunting him down in their pick-up trucks, were each sentenced today to life in prison. Two of them, father and son, got life without the possibility of parole. The third, their neighbor, could be paroled after serving 30 years. But he's already 52, so...

In Arizona, or Florida, or wherever "they" preside, the buffoonish, rightwing conspiracy theorists, con-men and theoretical cybersecurity experts calling themselves Cyber Ninjas, declared they exist no more. That, just one day after an AZ state judge said they are to be fined $50,000 for each day that they continued to refuse to hand over public documents regarding the pretend "forensic audit" of Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ's 2020 Presidential election they were hired by the GOP state Senate to carry out. More on that matter, hopefully, on a not-too-distant BradCast.

Next, as our week commemorating the grim, one-year anniversary of Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election by hurling thousands of supporters at the U.S. Capitol last year on January 6th, in hopes of halting the certification of the Electoral College vote with a deadly insurrection, comes to a close, a bit of mopping up and looking ahead to ways to prevent a more successful election coup from happening in the near future.

First, some reflections today from our 39th President, the 97-year old democracy champion Jimmy Carter. He wrote this week in the New York Times that he now "fears" for our democracy, citing last year's insurrection and the politicians in his home state of Georgia and elsewhere, such as Texas and Florida, who have "leveraged the distrust they have created to enact laws that empower partisan legislatures to intervene in election processes." Carter sees Americans "being persuaded to think and act likewise, threatening to collapse the foundations of our security and democracy with breathtaking speed." He says the he now fears that what he, his Carter Center and America itself "have fought so hard to achieve globally — the right to free, fair elections, unhindered by strongman politicians who seek nothing more than to grow their own power — has become dangerously fragile at home."

Carter is hardly the only one with a long and broad perspective on history who has become unnerved by what we are now seeing in America. Ronald Reagan's U.S. Solicitor General, Charles Fried, interviewed last month by CNN's Christiane Amanpour, noted his birth in Prague in 1935, when "Czechoslovakia was a real democracy" before "the demons of hell came out and spoiled that for 50 years." The 86-year old longtime Republican and Harvard Law professor now says he sees "those people re-emerging" and he "hears the same tune and it scares me."

So, for those of us paying attention, what can be done? We talk about exactly that today with our guest, DR. NILS GILMAN of the Berggruen Institute, following on his recent L.A. Times op-ed discussing similar nightmares as those cited by Carter and Fried which have continue to emerge throughout 2021 and what we can ALL now do to try and counter them.

Gilman was also the co-founder the Transition Integrity Project (TIP), a bipartisan group of security, military, political and media experts who met during the summer of 2020 to game out what might happen [PDF] in various worst-case scenarios if Trump decided to declare the election results invalid and/or refused to leave office that fall. We begin today with how his TIP group viewed the January 6 Electoral College certification event in advance, which he says they saw as a "moment of Constitutional stress that bad actors could potentially exploit," warning at the time that "there needed to be preparations on the part of law enforcement to be ready for that possibility." Perhaps we'll pay more attention to his group's warnings the next time, if they decide they need to reconvene before 2024 election.

He is now warning, in his piece at L.A. Times, that "the runaway train of illiberalism continues to bear down on American democracy, and the need to act could not be more urgent." Gilman explains today what he means by the term "illiberal democracy," a phrase he cites as being coined by Hungarian strongman President Viktor Orban, who was recently endorsed by Donald Trump. Under Orban, Hungary, in recent years, has seen its media essentially taken over by his rightwing government.

Citing strongman leaders "all over the world, in Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, Poland, "you're seeing the rise of this illiberal democracy, where you still have elections, but the electoral process is so corrupted that it basically ensures that you will get right or far-right victories under any and all circumstances." Sound familiar? That, as nations like Hungary are literally being hailed of late by folks on the American right like Tucker Carlson and Fox "News". "It's being celebrated in rightwing media as a model that America might want to follow," Gilman charges.

He goes on to detail, both in his op-ed and on today's program, what "ordinary citizens" who oppose such fascist takeovers of our democracy can and must do at the state and local level --- as we wait and hope for voting rights and election protection legislation at the federal level --- to otherwise counter such forces. Election officials are now facing threats from Trump's MAGA Mob across the country, even as his supporters are working to take over key election administration positions by both hook and crook.

"People can go out and become pollworkers," urges Gilman. "We have an under-supply. Run as a local election administrator. There are thousands of positions all over the country. Our election system is currently totally decentralized and local administrators have a lot of power, and we need people committed to the democratic process to be in those position, not people who are committed to partisan victory at any and all costs."

As he explains, "there are things that an ordinary citizen can do. But the truth is that the real problem is we need to have elites who are going to be committed to democratic practice. What we have in this country now --- and we're seeing this very much in the current Congress --- you see a split between some elites who are basically complicit with the crimes of the previous administration and then others who are complacent about the likelihood that this could come back. We need elites to take this problem more seriously and really take on the challenge of illiberalism and the anti-democratic tendencies that are becoming more and more legion in this country, particularly on the right."

We also discuss my personal concerns --- my personal nightmares --- about the ability of committed, bad faith Republicans at this point to game the Electoral College in 2024 in a way they were not prepared to do in 2020. If they do so --- at the state legislative and/or Congressional level --- I believe there is nothing currently in federal law or the U.S. Constitution to prevent such a bad-faith exercise from succeeding next time. Please tune in to see if Gilman shares my concern.

Finally today, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest, very lively, Green News Report, which we had to postpone until today to make room yesterday for our special coverage of the first anniversary of the GOP's January 6th, 2021 insurrection...

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Republicans remain shamefully disinformed one year later; Biden calls out predecessor's 'web of lies conceived and spread for profit and power'; American democracy remains in peril...
By Brad Friedman on 1/6/2022 6:41pm PT  

While we've been citing the New York Times Editorial Board's headline from New Years Day of late on The BradCast, declaring that "Every Day is Jan. 6 Now", today it quite literally was, as the nation marked the grim first anniversary of Donald Trump's final, deadly and failed attempt to steal the 2020 election. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

We'll let you tune in for details of our special coverage today, in which we discuss some difficult realities in the ongoing fight to save American democracy. Trump's attempted coup might have failed on January 6, but his evidence-free lies about the election have succeeded in duping nearly 80% of Republicans into believing that Joe Biden's victory was not legitimate. That, despite the lack of any evidence, more than one year later, that the election results were fraudulent in any state.

As noted on today's program, authoritarianism and fascism, it seems, have had far greater success over the centuries for a reason. They are much easier than democracy, which requires truth, facts, transparency, public oversight and public participation in its defense. But, if you are lied to, if you don't know what is actually going on in our country, in your government, if you don't know the facts, it is difficult to defend them or democracy itself.

But we will keep striving to do so, by bringing you independently verifiable facts every day for as long as we can --- in a way that doesn't require you to simply trust us --- in hopes of somehow, someday, someway, restoring a sense of a shared reality from which we can all take action.

Toward that end, both Vice President Kamala Harris and President Biden offered remarks today from inside the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, one year after it was attacked by a duped MAGA Mob ginned up by Donald Trump to believe that his lies about the election had any relation to reality. On that day, and those that followed, some his supporters, as well as several U.S. Capitol and D.C. law enforcement officers, paid the price with their lives, along with nearly 150 officers who were injured in the unprecedented assault.

We share both Harris' and Biden's words today, each of whom underscored yet again the necessity of federal legislation to shore up voting rights to counter the GOP's newly enacted schemes to subvert elections and overthrow democracy itself.

For his part, Biden forcefully called out the failed former President in blistering remarks in which he accused Trump and his supporters of holding a "dagger at the throat of democracy" in an "armed insurrection" one year ago.

"We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie," Biden urged. "The former President of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost."

"Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written --- not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost," he continued. "It's wrong. It’s undemocratic. And frankly, it's un-American."

"It's up to all of us --- to 'We the People' --- to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive. That promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good.

"Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history," Biden said. "As we stand here today --- one year since January 6th, 2021 --- the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated. So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted."

"We are in a battle for the soul of America," he charged, reiterating the argument with which he kicked off his 2020 campaign as he concluded his remarks. "I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy."

He finished by offering a blessing for "those who stand watch over our democracy."

Finally today, at the end of somewhat dark program, some light. Just a bit. We close with a spoken word poem of some hope from Amanda Gorman, our National Youth Poet Laureate, called New Day's Lyric...

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Guest: Marilyn Marks of Coalition for Good Governance on that and MUCH more; Also: Stone takes the 5th; Judge allows Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation case to proceed against Fox 'News' ...
By Brad Friedman on 12/17/2021 7:25pm PT  

It's been a rough close of the year for those of us fighting to preserve democracy in these United States against the rising authoritarian tide from the Right. But while it's has been a tough slog for passage of federal voting rights and election protection legislation in the U.S. Senate, there have been several critical victories for fans of democracy in federal court over this past week, as covered on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, some quick news on the continuing probe by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election by inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. GOP dirty tricksters and longtime Trump pal Roger Stone invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before the Committee today. While Stone is the first to admit to doing so publicly, he is the third Trump henchman to reportedly have done so to date. In 2019, Stone was convicted of seven criminal felonies, including lying to Congress and obstructing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, before eventually being pardoned for all charges by Trump on his way out of office.

The House Committee appears to now be homing in on the question of, in Vice Chair Liz Cheney's words: "Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceedings to count Electoral Votes." If so, and if charged with and found guilty of said action or inaction, the former President could face as many as 20 years in prison under federal law.

Fox "News", on the other hand, is already in federal court, facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by the Dominion Voting Systems company. On Thursday, a federal judge denied the Republican propaganda outlet's Motion to Dismiss the case. That is a major hurdle for the private voting system vendor to have cleared, allowing their case to move on to the discovery and trial phase. Both Dominion and another private election vendor, Smartmatic, have filed several defamation suits against Fox and other rightwing media outlets, as well as Trump lawyers and allies such as Rudy Giuliani [PDF], Sidney Powell [PDF] and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell [PDF], for their false claims that Dominion and Smartmatic stole the election for Joe Biden. Giuliani, Powell and Lindell's Motions to Dismiss in their similar defamation suits, in which the voting companies are seeking more than a billion dollars in each, were all rejected over the summer.

Next, more good court news came in late last week in the eight different lawsuits now filed challenging the state of Georgia's voter-suppression and election subversion law known as SB202. The measure was adopted by state Republicans earlier in the year on the heels of Trump's evidence-free claim that the 2020 election he lost to Biden in the Peach State was rigged, and after the elections of the state's Democratic U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the January runoff.

Late last week the Trump-appointed judge overseeing all eight challenges to SB202, allowed all of them to proceed in full, rejecting the Motions to Dismiss filed by the State and Republican groups that have joined the defendants. Seven of those suits, including those filed by the NAACP, ACLU, Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight organization and the U.S. Dept. of Justice, focus largely on race-based violations of the Voting Rights Act.

The eighth case, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance [PDF], in which I am a named plaintiff representing media, challenges SB202's election subversion clause and several others which, the suit contends, violate the First Amendment of the Constitution. SB202's election subversion clause allows the State Board of Elections to replace county elections officials with partisans, for virtually any reason they like, who can then overturn elections, also for virtually any reason they like. Other provisions of the law challenged by CGG prevent the public and media outlets like our own, from basic election oversight and reporting functions that have been in place for decades if not centuries, such as the right to photograph inside of polling places or during the tallying of absentee ballots.

Earlier this year, in August, U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee granted an injunction [PDF] on SB202's photography ban in advance of Georgia's November municipal elections. But his ruling last week [PDF] was much broader in allowing all eight challenges to the law to proceed in full toward the discovery and trial phases. It was, as my guest explains today, a major victory for all of the plaintiffs.

We're joined today by MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, to discuss the good news in that case, new developments in her separate, longstanding case challenging the use of Georgia's new, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems and much MUCH more. We haven't spoken on air with Marks, usually a frequent guest, in about six months! So we've got a LOT to catch up with today!

Among the many points in our wide-ranging conversation...

  • Marks offers her reaction to Fox "News" losing its Motion to Dismiss in Dominion's defamation case against them; the conflicting emotions in supporting Dominion in their defamation cases, given that likely nobody in the nation has been tougher on Dominion's terrible voting systems than she has been; and why it is that, as unrelenting as she's been against Dominion for so many years (The Coalition's lawsuit seeks to ban their touchscreen systems across the entire state), the company has never sued her or her organization for defamation.
  • Speaking of the Coalition's case against GA's use of the Dominion touchscreens (which is separate from their SB202 challenge), Marks updates us on a report created for the court by plaintiff's expert Dr. Alex Halderman, finding vulnerabilities in Dominion's voting systems that are so disturbing the federal judge has sealed his report as for "Attorneys Eyes Only," meaning that even Marks has not been allowed to see it But, she notes, Dominion now has access to that report. If so, as we discuss, that means that, under California law (where several counties also use these same terrible systems), the company must now share the vulnerabilities in that sealed report with California's Sec. of State. In turn, CA must then report the vulnerabilities to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. (The report by Halderman and the vulnerabilities he allegedly found became an issue here in the Golden State earlier this year, just prior to the California Gubernatorial Recall election in September, after Dominon's central Election Management System software was apparently stolen and duplicated under the auspices of a rightwing Mesa County, Colorado election official and released to the Internet during Mike Lindell's failed "Cybersecurity Symposium" in South Dakota.) It is unknown if Dominion has yet to share Halderman's report with the CA Sec. of State, as per state law. Marks notes that Halderman has said the vulnerabilities are "even more serious" than those found in the older Diebold touchscreens GA used to use, before they were banned by this same lawsuit and replaced with the vulnerable Dominion systems. "Dominion has to inform the California Sec. of State within 30 days of getting reports of defects, failures, etc.," she explains, "So yes, it should be happening soon."
  • Marks details why "it was a big victory" that Judge Boulee allowed all of the SB202 cases to proceed, including the one filed by the Coalition. She details how her group's challenge to SBS202 is very different from the other seven that the judge allowed to proceed as well, while he suggested that some of the overlapping cases may be combined in the days ahead. She notes that, despite being a Trump appointee, he appears to be doing a very thorough job of overseeing all of the cases, including points made by both plaintiffs and defendants alike.
  • She clarifies how even if SB202 is struck down in full, state law in Georgia would still allow much of the recent purging of Black Democratic elections officials from county boards of elections, as we discussed with one of those purged, longtime county election officials and voting rights leaders Helen Butler of The People's Agenda on the show earlier in the week. "Unfortunately, you and Helen are right about that," Marks confirms.
  • We discuss --- and have a minor difference of opinion --- regarding a recently dismissed lawsuit in Georgia that challenged the state's 2020 election results. That case, filed by a group named VoterGA, alleged thousands of fraudulent ballots were included in the 2020 results. It was dismissed in recent weeks for reasons of standing that both Marks and I find questionable. Our small disagreement is related to my argument that the case should have been allowed to proceed because, even if VoterGA's complaint was based on false claims of fraud, those who question election results (even those conned by a lying, disgraced former President) ought to be able to examine election results and ballots for themselves, as long as they pay the costs for the exercise and ballots are taken out of the secure custody of elections officials. (That, in contrast to the what we saw earlier this year in the Cyber Ninjas' clown show "audit" in Maricopa County, Arizona.) Marks, a longtime, huge advocate for transparency and public oversight of elections supports that idea, but notes that VoterGA failed to seek such oversight during the period when they could have done so under state law. Further, she explains, the group failed to join earlier efforts to the election to change state law in order to declare paper ballots and digital ballot images to be official public records, fully reviewable by citizens and groups like VoterGA and the Coalition for Good Governance.
  • Finally, Marks also offers her reaction to the recently discovered news that Trump attorney and longtime GOP "voter fraud" fraudster Cleta Mitchell, had been quietly named to an Advisory Board for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) earlier this year. Her appointment in April was not publicly reported until November. Mitchell participated from the White House on Trump's infamous January 2nd phone call with GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger when the desperate, outgoing President attempted to bully Raffensperger, urging him to "find" enough votes to steal the election for him in the Peach State. The EAC, meanwhile, which Mitchell is now advising, is responsible for certifying voting systems used in the U.S. and helps states and counties on regulations and best practices for federal elections.

There is a lot of important information about elections and election integrity in today's conversation with Marks. Though we better not wait another six months to do it again or we'll have to have a three hour show!...

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Guest: Helen Butler of The People's Agenda, purged from the Morgan County, GA Board of Elections; Also: Listener mail!...
By Brad Friedman on 12/15/2021 6:28pm PT  

If you're wondering how to stay positive as America appears on the brink of a very dark authoritarian takeover by Republicans, we may have just the answer for you in the form of today's guest on The BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Reuters has been doing an incredibly well-reported series of special reports of late on the Republicans' ongoing assault on democracy itself in America. They've covered, among other aspects, the attacks on elections officials stemming from Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election by blatantly lying about it, and even citing certain election officials by name who were subsequently targeted and terrorized --- sometimes, along with their family members --- with threats of violence and death by his supporters. They have also been very smartly covering the effects of new voter suppression laws being adopted in GOP controlled states around the nation, as part of the opportunistic fall-out from the lies that Trump told in his effort to steal last year's Presidential election.

Recently, Reuters' James Oliphant and Nathan Layne took a detailed look at the effect all of this is having on local elections officials in a state we have covered in great detail on this program: Georgia, where longtime, local election board officials --- specifically, Democratic election officials ... specifically black Democratic election officials (and frequently black Democratic women) --- are now being purged from County election boards across the state at an alarming rate.

The purge is thanks to two different state laws. One is GA's terrible new anti-voting law, SB 202, passed earlier this year, which allows for --- among other anti-democratic things --- officials on the State Board of Elections, which is controlled by the GOP state legislature and Republican Sec. of State, to replace county election officials with partisan operatives (for virtually any reason) who can then overturn election results (also, for virtually any reason.) [FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a named plaintiff, representing media, challenging several provisions of SB 202 in a federal lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance.] The other law being used even more, referred to as "local legislation", has been in place for a while, but was rarely invoked until this year in the wake of Trump's "Big Lie" after Democrats won the Presidential election in the state for the first time in years, along with both of the Peach State's U.S. Senate seats. The state law allows County Commissions to restructure their County Boards of Elections pretty much anyway they like after receiving approval for the restructuring from the state legislature.

In at least half a dozen Georgia counties that have restructured their election boards so far this year, Oliphant and Layne report, "the legislature shifted the power to appoint some or all election board members to local county commissions, all of which are currently controlled by Republicans. Previously, the appointments had been split evenly between the local Democratic and Republican parties." They detail how black Democrats --- often long-serving champions of voting rights --- have been systematically purged from those county boards and replaced with White Republican majorities in advance of next year's critical mid-terms, where popular black Democratic voting rights advocates Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock will both be on the ballot, for Governor and U.S. Senator respectively.

"In Morgan County, the majority-Republican county commission reconstituted its election board, ousting two outspoken Black Democrats," Reuters reports, "Helen Butler and Avery Jackson were removed after the new law eliminated political-party appointments and handed appointment power to the Republican-dominated commission. Butler and Jackson sought reappointments but were denied."

We're thrilled to be joined once again today by one of those two ousted officials, HELEN BUTLER, who served honorably on the Morgan County Board of Elections and Registration for a decade until she was pushed out this year. Butler, who we first spoke with over the summer, after she offered testimony in the U.S. Senate, is the Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a civil rights organization founded by the late, great civil rights icon, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery (who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.).

She is also the winner of the Voter Empowerment Collaborative's 2021 Love Award, named after the 40-year old civil rights group's legendary founder, Reverend Albert E. Love, known as "Mr. Vote," after dedicating his life to registering, educating and mobilizing voters. And Butler is also a 2021 "Defender of the Dream" awardee by the AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference. We leave it to you to decide if those awards are as prestigious as Butler being named last month as a "Goddess of Democracy" in Glamour magazine's "Women of the Year" issue.

Butler describes today what is going on right now in Georgia, largely under the national media radar, as being part of the GOP's "insurrection plan nationally, that 'We are going to take over every aspect of controlling the outcome of elections, so if I don't like the results, I can put in the results that I want to have.'" She also notes that it is happening not only with boards of elections in her state, but at school boards as well.

"They're not stopping with just elections. They're trying to take over control of all aspects of government. Education departments are the largest generators of revenue in counties, so if they get to control that, they get to control all money, they get to control what our children learn, what they get, where schools are located," she warns. "So again, it's a total takeover process that they're going after...They are stacking control of all levels of government."

When I ask how much control local county boards of elections have over elections and voting processes, and even outcomes, as compared to the state itself, Butler pulls no punches: "The county levels are the ones where the rubber meets the road. They do all of the voter registration, making sure people are registered to vote. They get to determine with their redistricting process, how the maps are drawn, how people are put into those maps for purposes of voting. They also control who gets an absentee ballot, whether it gets counted or is rejected. If there are provisional ballots, they get to determine which ones are counted, which ones are rejected. They get to certify the results --- they get to count all of the votes that are cast. And they get to certify who gets to win each race. So they are very critical... and if you stack it so those people can conform to a lie versus the truth, then you don't get true democracy... you get an autocratic form of government, because someone wants it to go a certain way, and not necessarily to the will of the voters."

With that, Butler explains, "they can control the outcome of all elections." And while all of this sounds --- and is --- quite chilling, Butler's optimism, as you'll hear, is absolutely infectious. As dark as the topic of discussion is, you'll be astounded to walk away from this conversation actually feeling somewhat better about everything...including the possibility of federal legislation in the form of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act actually being adopted by the U.S. Senate, and maybe even saving democracy in Georgia and everywhere else before all is said and done. She explains how those bills will go a long way toward reversing the worst of the GOP's now-ongoing assault on American democracy and, if passed, could be "our saving grace."

"I always try to be optimistic, to look for the good things rather than dwell on the bad," she tells me, as she also explains how Americans across the country can help right now. "It's very important we get those bills passed...As my leader, the late Dr. Joseph Lowery said, 'Voting is a sacred right, but it's also a moral obligation.'"

Tune in for much more in today's conversation. You can thank me later.

Finally, we close today with a listener mail segment, including some great letters from listeners in response to several recent shows that may help you keep Butler's infectious optimism going through the holidays...or at least for the next few hours...

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Guest: Election law scholar and democracy activist, Paul Lehto; Also: Biden v. Putin; U.S. v. China; Meadows v. 1/6 Committee; DoJ v. Texas...
By Brad Friedman on 12/7/2021 5:34pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we've got trouble both at home and abroad. But what else is new? [Audio link to full program is posted at the end of this summary.]

As if our domestic problems aren't disturbing enough, a couple of roiling foreign policy issues are landing on Joe Biden's desk this week. The President met via video-conference on Tuesday with Russia President Vladimir Putin to discuss the troubling build-up of Russian forces near the border of eastern Ukraine, suggesting a full-scale invasion of the former Soviet bloc country could be imminent in coming weeks and months. Biden reportedly threatened serious economic consequences for Russia if that happens. For his part, Putin seeks a commitment from NATO that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the joint defense organization. That condition is said to be a non-starter for both Biden and our NATO allies.

Elsewhere, China is none too happy with Biden's decision to implement a "diplomatic boycott" of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Though U.S. athletes will be allowed to attend, Administration officials will not, leading China to describe the move as an "outright political provocation" and vowing "firm countermeasures," whatever that might mean.

Meanwhile, here at home, we're still trying to clean up after Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, while trying to prevent him and the Republicans from more successfully stealing future elections. It won't be easy.

Last week, following the two federal indictments of Steve Bannon for failing to answer lawful subpoenas issued by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows agreed --- sort of --- to cooperate with the Committee in regards his own subpoenas. Today, he reportedly changed his mind and, in turn, may also now be looking at indictments in the days ahead, along with two years in prison. Apparently his boss, the disgraced, twice-impeached former President, doesn't want him talking to the Committee for some reason. Happily, Mike Pence's former Chief of Staff, reportedly --- along with hundreds of others --- are already doing so.

With at least some accountability now likely in the offing for Meadows --- even as Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice has, to date, brought no accountability on its own to the former President and his criminal clan for an endless list of crimes that includes the attempt to steal 2020 --- the Department filed a new lawsuit against Texas on Monday. The litigation seeks to block the Lone Star State's new Congressional and legislative maps as violations of the Voting Rights Act. While Texas gained two new House seats following the 2020 Census, they have now added two new White-majority Congressional Districts and eliminated a Latino-controlled seat. That, despite the fact that 95% of the population growth in the state is thanks to Latinos and Blacks. The DoJ, in their press conference announcing the suit yesterday, noted this isn't the first time TX has attempted to racially gerrymander its maps for partisan advantage. Though it may be much more difficult to challenge them this time around with the gutting of the VRA by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years and, of course, the Republicans having packed the Court's 6 to 3 majority.

But as the GOP prepares to win a majority of the House in 2022 with a minority of votes from Americans, the vagaries of both the U.S. Constitution and the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887 may make it easier to steal the Presidential election in 2024 as well. Longtime Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg --- who helped steal the 2000 election for George W. Bush but rejected Trump's attempts to steal 2020 --- is now pressing his own party to reform the ECA before it comes back to bite them in the future.

It was, in fact, confusion surrounding the incredibly poorly written ECA that Team Trump hoped to exploit to their advantage when they tried to coerce then Vice President Mike Pence to declare electoral votes in a number of swing-states to be invalid during the joint session of Congress to certify the electoral votes on January 6. He refused, but the usually pro forma Congressional certification of the Electoral College, as you know, was then interrupted by Trump's MAGA Mob insurrection, in his last desperate attempt to steal the election that he lost.

We were joined on this program, on January 4th, by election law scholar and democracy activist PAUL LEHTO who joined us to warn, at the time, of the dangers that awaited on January 6th, thanks in no small part to the confusing ECA and Team Trump's attempts to take advantage of that confusion. Lehto joins us again today to discuss Ginsberg's recommendations to reform the Act and whether such reforms --- even if they could ever be adopted by the current dysfunctionally divided Congress --- would help to avoid another attempted theft of the Electoral College by Trump...or anyone else.

"If Congress understood that all they are doing is tabulating votes --- their scope is very limited --- they wouldn't have these disagreements about whether the Vice President has a sweeping authority to do this," Lehto explains. "They would realize they're clerks. But because that's not an understanding that's out there like it ought to be, yet another major norm of democracy, you could say, is being completely violated. And that's why there are so many holes that can be manipulated in the ECA. Because people are looking for 'How can we game the system?'"

Lehto, whose warnings were prescient in November, December and January, warns today that while the ECA "ought to be amended...whenever you close a loophole, the action just moves to the loopholes that still exist. Amending the ECA all by itself isn't going to solve the problem. Because you have constitutional issues, you have issues of people being partisan when they really should be patriots and act like clerks counting ballots."

He also has a few thoughts on what would help make Presidential elections less fraught and easily exploited, which involves both transparency and some key changes to the Constitution. "I think maybe what Democrats don't fully give enough weight to is the fact that we have an ancient Constitution that did not provide a democratic means of selecting the President," he tells me. "So that feels anti-democratic and fraudulent to Democrats, but that's what the system was set up. So we need to amend the Constitution in order to have it line up with what our reasonable expectations are for living in a modern democracy."

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report, with troubling news for the Western U.S. and for Christmas tree fans, but with a bit of good news out of Scotland...

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Guest: Univ. of KY election law professor Joshua A. Douglas; Also: Media fail again in reporting on latest, wildly misleading jobs numbers...
By Brad Friedman on 12/3/2021 7:13pm PT  

Should Democrats draw extreme partisan gerrymanders in states they control the way Republicans are doing in states where they have control over redistricting maps? On today's BradCast we have a very animated debate on the issue, along with a discussion of the few other ways that fans of democracy may still try and save the republic from the GOP's unabashed authoritarian lurch toward minority rule. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, first up today, a few quick thoughts on the corporate media, yet again, wildly misreporting national economic news amid the very robust --- and, in many ways, record --- recovery, while the country attempts to come out from under its pandemic-induced recession. On Friday, new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) declared that America's unemployment rate continue to tumble to just 4.2% --- a remarkable, nearly half point decline since just last month to virtually where it was pre-pandemic. Nonetheless, morning headlines focused instead on lower than expected new jobs created in November, which sent the stock markets tumbling once again. That, even though, over the past year, the BLS has substantially upwardly revised previously reported monthly jobs numbers every single month except for one. They've done so with numbers that are nearly double or more than the initially reported monthly BLS statistics, amounting to nearly 1 million more jobs in 2021 than initially reported.

While its unclear why initial BLS numbers are now so far off the mark. Historically, they always revise. But, this year, post-pandemic survey numbers have been wildly off for some reason. The consequences both politically and economically have been huge. The fact that the corporate media can't seem to account for that by now in their panicked reports with each new "disappointing" set of numbers --- which will almost certainly be revised up very soon --- remains disturbing. That, as media continue to misreport on inflation and downplay positive economic news such as the lowest number of new weekly jobless claims since 1969 just last week; the nearly 1 million new jobs created this year alone; and the 1.1 million jobs filled since just last month's BLS report, to name a few points that have received much less notice from the media...for some reason. If the media can't adjust for the misleading initial BLS reports themselves, perhaps Biden's Labor Dept. Secretary should help them.

THEN, as we've been documenting, Republican-controlled states around the nation continue to implement new, extremely partisan redistricting maps for U.S. House and state legislators following the 2020 census. With computer-drawn precision, these new maps will ensure GOP gains in 2022 --- and a Republican majority in the U.S. House --- even if America votes exactly as they did in 2020, when Democratic House candidates received nearly 5 million more votes than GOP candidates.

Two years ago, the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court declared they would not intercede in fights over partisan gerrymanders. So, how can Democrats push back against this anti-democracy putsch by Republicans hoping to secure minority rule in the House for the next decade (adding to already existing minority rule in the Senate and electoral college, as baked into the Constitution, and on the Supreme Court, thanks to Republicans gaming the system there in recent years)?

We're joined today for a lively discussion on exactly that by JOSHUA A. DOUGLAS, author and election law professor at University of Kentucky's J. David Rosenberg College of Law. Last week, he proffered at least one solution in an op-ed at Politico calling for litigation in state courts all over the country, now that SCOTUS has washed their hands of the matter, while Democratic obstructionists in the Senate (Manchin and Sinema) block the party's ability to reform the filibuster in order to ban partisan gerrymandering nationwide in the Freedom to Vote Act.

"It was thought to be that the House of Representatives would be 'the people's house', the body that would represent a majority of the people and be a check on some of these other institutions that might give outsized weight to the smaller states, the rural states --- in the pre-Civil War era, the states that were trying to protect slavery," Douglas explains today. "But now, with sophisticated computers and algorithms where we can predict with such accuracy how people are going to vote, the House has become completely out of whack, such that Democrats need to win a lot more than 50 percent plus 1 in order to gain a majority in that chamber."

With federal courts no longer an option for the time being, Douglas notes that almost all states have constitutions that, unlike the U.S. Constitution, grant citizens an affirmative, fundamental right to vote. Those provisions, declaring that elections must be "free" or "free and equal" or "free and open", can and should be exploited to challenge the parties in power currently drawing maps that deprive residents of those rights, he argues. "My argument is that state courts should robustly use these phrases to protect democracy, and to throw out maps that are so skewed that the maps don't represent a fair democracy, a fair majoritarian rule, but instead keep the party in power to stay in power, to entrench them in power, just because of the way the lines are drawn."

Douglas observes that, while more challenges are beginning to be filed along those lines in state courts in recent days, he "was a little surprised" that, at least until recently, there had been very few such challenges brought in state courts, despite legal foothold offered by many of those state constitutions. "If we're looking for a solution to a situation that is untenable for democracy, at least here's one where we've seen some success," he tells me. "Just a couple of years ago, both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the North Carolina Supreme Court relied on their state constitutions to strike down gerrymandering maps in those states. And other states' Supreme Courts have relied on their state constitutions for other democracy decisions, other issues involving the right to vote. So we have some precedent that is favorable to using these state constitutions robustly."

While I also support such challenges --- along with sharing Douglas' call for reforming the Senate filibuster to allow passage of federal legislation that would ban partisan gerrymanders in all 50 states --- I've also recently been forced to reluctantly change my position on partisan gerrymanders in states controlled by Democrats. I believe "blue" states should not unilaterally disarm. That, due to the threat to democracy itself now posed by the GOP gerrymandering scheme to "win" a House majority with a minority of votes in 2022 and then use that majority to steal the Presidential election in the House in 2024, as Douglas himself warns against in a separate op-ed this week at CNN.

Despite his assertion in his CNN piece that "we must treat the 2022 election as existential for the continued vitality of our democracy," noting that "American democracy barely survived 2020. The attacks on 2024 are already underway" and "Whether they succeed will depend on what we do right now," Douglas remains firmly opposed to tit-for-tat partisan gerrymandering by Democrats and explains why.

He and I have that out in a very lively debate to close out today's program...

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Guest: Activist, author Kenny Bruno on 'DEFCON for Democracy'; Also: Fourth student dies after MI high school gun massacre...
By Brad Friedman on 12/1/2021 5:51pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It's a grim day in America. But it's one that every American should be paying very close attention to nonetheless. [Audio link to full show posted at the end of this summary.]

First up today, a fourth student, a 17-year old, has died following Tuesday's mass shooting by a 15-year old at Oxford High School in Michigan. The other three victims who were killed, as well as seven other students who remained in the hospital overnight after being shot, were all aged 14 to 17. The shooter used his father's new semi-automatic pistol purchased just last Friday to carry out the massacre. There were still seven more bullets in the weapon when he surrendered to authorities. But, that's "freedom" for ya in 2021 America, apparently.

On Wednesday morning, the Republicans' stolen and packed 6 to 3 U.S. Supreme Court majority met to consider removing the previously long-settled freedom for a woman to determine her own reproductive rights in all 50 states. The case heard at SCOTUS was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, where legislators have adopted a law that would ban all abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure was overturned in lower courts after being found a clear violation of the nearly 50-year old Roe v. Wade precedent set in 1973 and reaffirmed as settled law in 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

When MS filed their initial appeal at the Supreme Court they sought approval for their then-radical 15-week ban. It was only after last year's death of abortion rights champion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and her subsequent replacement on the Court by the far-right Amy Coney Barret just eight days before the 2020 Presidential election, that the state decided to also ask the court to strike down Roe in its entirety.

Little, if anything, has changed legally since 1992 regarding the reproductive rights Constitutionally guaranteed by Roe and reaffirmed by Casey. But the make-up of the High Court itself has changed radically. Its majority has been stolen by Republicans who cancelled the filibuster in the Senate in order to pack three, hard-right Donald Trump appointees onto it. That fact, made clear by MS legislators themselves, led Justice Sonia Sotomayor to aptly ask the state's Republican Attorney General today: "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?"

Good question. Of course, the answer is that those on the political Right don't actually care. As the twice federally indicted Steve Bannon recently noted on his War Room radio show/podcast, Republicans are only interested in "taking over" --- from school boards to the White House --- and whether or not their hardball methods result in "a Constitutional crisis," they really don't care. "We're a big and tough country and we can handle that," he preached to his followers.

To that end, Republican officials across the country are, right now, hoping to break American democracy itself, by installing loyalist Trump party apparatchik in key election administration positions, from precinct judges to county clerks to canvassing boards to Secretaries of State, as Washington Post reported in great detail on Monday. The Plot to Steal the 2024 Election is underway RIGHT NOW. Ignore these warnings at all of our peril.

We're joined today by longtime progressive activist and author KENNY BRUNO who offered a similarly chilling --- and even more direct --- warning at Truthout over the weekend, spelling out how Trump and the GOP have already "laid the groundwork for assuming the U.S. presidency regardless of the result of the 2024 election." He details today how "most of the conditions they would need to execute [their plan] is already in place."

"Often you see it covered, or you see various aspects covered, as if they were disparate things," Bruno explains, "like the treatment of Liz Cheney, the sham audit in Arizona, the repetition of the Big Lie, the new voter suppression laws in 19 states --- covered as if they are disparate things. But the simplest explanation is that they are all part of a plan," he charges, before spelling out exactly how that plan is meant to work between now and the certification of state electors on January 6, 2025.

To "undermine faith in elections" in order to steal a Presidential election, Bruno argues, "you would want radical state legislatures, especially in swing states. You would want a majority of states with a majority of loyal members of Congress. You would want to purge moderate representatives and election officials who might not go along with ending democracy, who might not play ball. You'd want a compliant Supreme Court. You'd want to intimidate the election officials who are left. I could go on...These are things that you need in place. If you look now at Trump and the GOP, most of those boxes are already checked. And they're part of a comprehensive plan."

What --- if anything --- can be done about it? Well, the options in response, as also spelled out by Bruno in his op-ed and on today's program, are not great. But knowing and understanding what is going on is a critical first step. While we have been warning and reporting on this stuff seemingly forever (for example, while the actual attempt to steal the 2020 election was underway in advance of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol), it seems the warnings are not being adequately amplified by either corporate media or Democrats, as Bruno sees it.

He goes on to note that his originally suggested title for his Truthout piece was "DEFCON for Democracy," before the headline was somewhat softened by editors. "I think if you understand the threat to be that severe, then you have to take drastic action. Unless you're talking about it, and preparing people for drastic action, they're not going to understand why it's justified," cautions Bruno. "This is a real threat, it's a real plan. The evidence is that it's being carried out. And if you want to stop it, you might have to take some drastic action."

"I would love to be wrong about the whole thing, to be honest," he concedes. "I think the most important thing at the moment is to talk about it, to call it out. Because if you don't socialize people to the idea that this steal, subversion, gaming of the Electoral College is underway, they won't be ready to accept your actions to defend it."

As noted, it's a grim day and a grim show today, but one that we hope will be well worth your time to listen in full...

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Guest: Campaign Legal Center's Brendan Fischer; Also: Big news out of UN Climate Summit; Bad news out of federal court for Trump and friends...
By Brad Friedman on 11/10/2021 6:12pm PT  

Before my head explodes on today's BradCast while speaking with our guest about the latest ruling from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) on foreign money in American elections, we open with some seemingly better news --- and then close later with some definitely better news. [Audio link to show is posted below this summary.]

First up, three noteworthy points came out of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow on Wednesday, even if all three points are still somewhat vague and it remains to be seen if all 196 participating nations can unanimously (as required) come to an agreement by the end of this week's conference to cut enough global warming-causing emissions to save humanity. Is that too much to ask?

The three noteworthy points which we discuss, and quickly explain why they are so noteworthy, regard 1) a draft text [PDF] of a final agreement for COP26 (which could change before all is said and done), that actually mentions the need to phase out coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. Though that would seem obvious, it would actually be a landmark statement. 2) A pledge was announced between six major automakers (including Ford and GM!) and 30 national governments to phase out the sale of all new internal combustion vehicles worldwide by 2040 and in "leading markets" by 2035. And 3) A "surprise joint announcement" from the U.S. and China to work together to slow global warming in this decade (including reductions of emissions from both methane and coal!) and to ensure the Glasgow conference ends in success. All three points are actually big news, even if each comes with some vagaries and caveats and, in and of themselves, are nowhere near enough to save us. But all three are important and even landmark early steps toward that end, for reasons we discuss.

Next up, the FEC has affirmed that it's perfectly legal under federal law for foreign countries to spend as much as they like on American ballot referenda, at least in states that don't have laws outlawing it. Their recent 4 to 2 ruling comes from a 2018 Montana complaint where a Canadian subsidiary of an Australian firm had spent money to back a ballot measure placing new restrictions on hard rock mining in the state. It also comes on the heels of a ballot proposition last week in Maine where a record $89 million was spent on campaigns for and against a ballot initiative to halt a $1 billion cross-border corridor for a high-impact, clean electricity transmission line to bring power to the state generated by a Quebec-owned hydro-power company.

The FEC ruling allows unlimited millions from foreign individuals, companies and nations to be dumped into American ballot campaigns. We're joined today to discuss this seemingly mind-blowing FEC ruling by BRENDAN FISCHER, Director of the Federal Reform Program at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington D.C. He explains the gaping loophole in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) that bars foreign money in American candidate elections, but not, apparently, on ballot referenda and propositions, which the FEC says federal law does not consider to be an "election"!

While objectionable and a "kind of insane outcome" to the Montana case, according to Fischer, "this is not a totally crazy or unfounded interpretation" of the federal statute. In this case, it was, in fact, the Democratic Chair of the FEC who voted with all three Republicans on the Commission. Moreover, Fischer says, in Maine, there had been a bipartisan bill adopted by the state legislature to ban foreign money in ballot initiative campaigns, which was ultimately vetoed by the state's Democratic Governor. "That was really controversial in Maine," Fischer explains, "and voters, both Republican and Democrat, were unhappy about it."

He notes that elected officials from both parties in Congress have expressed concern about this problem with FECA and have put forward legislation to fix it. "There's a surprising amount of bipartisan support for plugging this loophole," Fischer tells me. "It also should be noted that the Freedom To Vote Act --- the big voting rights and campaign finance reform bill, supported by Joe Manchin --- also includes a provision that would extend the foreign national prohibition to state and local ballot measures."

Fischer also rings in today on the scathing report [PDF] issued this week by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, led by a Republican Trump-appointee, finding that more than a dozen top Trump Administration officials --- often repeatedly and knowingly --- violated the Hatch Act's ban on federal employees using their office to campaign for candidates (specifically for Trump) in the run-up to the 2020 election. While top Trump officials, including Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, violated the decades-old Act, the punishment for doing so --- at least for political appointees, if not career federal employees --- is left up to the discretion of the sitting President. Thus, naturally, under our disgraced former President, none of the thirteen who violated the Act faced any consequences from the federal law. Fischer offers his thoughts on whether the Hatch Act, like FECA, can or should be reformed by this Congress.

Finally, Tuesday night offered some actual bad news for that disgraced former President, as a federal judge rejected his attempt to block to the release of January 6-related White House documents subpoenaed by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Trump-incited insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan thoroughly shut down Trump's claims that Executive Privilege "exists in perpetuity" for him and that he otherwise faces irreparable harm if the National Archives releases the subpoenaed documents as scheduled this Friday. Chutkan's scathing 39-page ruling confirms the well-established principle that only a SITTING President has the power to exercise Executive Privilege to block the release of documents and that "Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”

Ouch. Trump's attorneys have, naturally, vowed to appeal. But the ruling is also very bad news for his disgraced former advisor Steve Bannon, who is facing a criminal Contempt of Congress charge referred to the Dept. of Justice by the U.S. House after his refusal to answer a lawful subpoena from the Select Committee. His basis for refusing to do so was that Trump told him his own documents and testimony were exempt under Executive Privilege. They aren't, because the former President has no such privilege. Neither are the documents and testimony of dozens of others subpoenaed by the Committee, all of whom, like Bannon, could be facing a year in prison for defying lawful Congressional subpoenas. As you know, this story will continue to develop in the days ahead...

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Guest: Legal expert John Bonifaz of Free Speech for People; Also: GOP gerrymandering getting worse, Dems running out of time to stop it...
By Brad Friedman on 11/5/2021 6:31pm PT  

On today's BradCast: There is a long list of pretty clear crimes that Donald Trump and his cronies have committed and might have been charged with by now. So far, however, a full year since he lost the election and nearly eight months since Merrick Garland was sworn in as President Biden's Attorney General, there is little sign of accountability for the disgraced former President at the federal level. Citing what they describe as a failure to meet this critical moment for the nation, some legal and Constitutional experts are now calling for Garland to resign. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

It's not as though the U.S. Department of Justice hasn't been busy in the wake of Trump's four years of undermining both the rule of law and the DoJ itself. They have, to date, brought charges against nearly 700 rioters incited by Trump to attack the U.S. Capitol in hopes of stealing the 2020 election somehow on January 6th.

In recent days, the Department has also filed two federal lawsuits against the state of Texas for their new voter suppression law and their clearly unconstitutional new law banning most abortions in the state. They've also brought suit against the state of Georgia in recent months, challenging their new voter suppression law as well.

Meanwhile, active investigations into Trump's potential violations of law are underway by state and local prosecutors both in New York and Georgia. But, at the federal level, there seems to be nothing, at least in sight, despite a laundry list of legal transgressions by the former President and his accomplices, dating well before his term in office and continuing right up through the very end.

"Over the past thirty years, Merrick Garland served with distinction as a federal prosecutor and then as an appellate judge," a new statement [PDF] and campaign by the nonpartisan legal advocacy nonprofit Free Speech for People (FSFP) begins. "Unfortunately, as Attorney General for the past eight months, he has failed to take any meaningful action to hold accountable former president Donald Trump and his co-conspirators for attempting to overthrow the government on January 6, 2021 and a flurry of criminal acts in the months and years leading up to that date. Instead, he has adopted indefensible positions of the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) to protect Trump from accountability. Since Garland is unwilling to step up, it is time for him to step down."

Their statement this week concludes: "As long as Trump and his co-conspirators walk free, American democracy is in danger. We need an Attorney General who understands that danger and is willing to take action to protect democracy and the rule of law. Merrick Garland must resign."

In response to FSFP's campaign launched on Thursday, Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School's renowned legal scholar and Professor Emeritus, tweeted out on Thursday night that while he was "not ready to join this movement", he believes it is "worth noting" as it comes from "serious and responsible" people. "DOJ must take note," he warned.

Joining us to discuss their call for Garland to step down is FSFP's "serious and responsible" Co-Founder and President, JOHN BONIFAZ, a longtime, well-respected Constitutional expert, author and accountability champion. Back in January, before Garland was even sworn in as Attorney General, FSFP led a campaign with nearly a dozen other good government groups and some 200,000 individuals who signed on, calling for the nation's top cop, once sworn in, to form an independent task force to investigate "any potential federal criminal or civil violations that may have been committed by President Trump, members of his administration, or his campaign, business, or other associates."

Now, months later, with no sign of any such task force OR investigation, FSFP has regrettably determined that Garland is not up to the task, with Bonifaz citing the apparent lack of charges --- at least so far --- against former Trump advisor Steve Bannon as "the last straw". Bannon was referred by the U.S. House for criminal Contempt of Congress to the DoJ two weeks ago. But as the group's statement observes, after detailing a panoply of apparent, if uncharged Trump-era crimes: "The last time that the House referred a contempt of Congress charge to DOJ, then-President Reagan’s prosecutors immediately brought the matter to a grand jury; it returned an indictment just nine days after the House vote."

In response to my questions as to whether federal probes could be ongoing at DoJ, but we simply don't know about them yet, Bonifaz cites the agency's prosecution of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for charges related to a criminal conspiracy the DoJ declared at the time was "directed" by Trump, and the ten or more instances of Obstruction of Justice by the then-sitting President, as cited by Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation. While it has been DoJ's (ridiculous) policy that sitting Presidents may not be indicted while in office, that excuse is long gone, Bonifaz argues. "The fact that there's been no action whatsoever on any of these offenses, including the ones that were well-established the moment that Garland took office as Attorney General --- that is deeply concerning, and signals that they ultimately do not intend to engage in holding him accountable. We're ready to be surprised, but at this point, nine months after he has taken office, we need new leadership at the Dept. of Justice, in our view, to ensure that the rule of law is enforced."

Does Bonifaz believe that Biden's DoJ may be trying to protect the office of the President itself from charges of political bias or from the DoJ being used as --- or being seen as being used as --- a political weapon? "What is at issue is that the Donald Trump Administration and Donald Trump himself used the Dept. of Justice as his own private agency to cover up. So what's critical now is that the Justice Department establish itself as an independent agency that's not going to carry out the political agenda of the President. If anything, doing what they're doing, in this particular instance, indicates somehow that they may have political considerations at stake," he contends. "That they may not want to engage in indicting a former President because of the impact it will have on the current President and his own political agenda --- that is just as wrong as a decision by Donald Trump to misuse the Justice Department for his own political purposes."

"There is no get-out-of-jail-free card because it's hard for the nation to handle it, or because we somehow need to come up with this fiction that the President is protected in a special way than others are," he asserts. "He's a former President, and if he engaged in these federal crimes, he needs to be held accountable."

There is, of course, MUCH more from Bonifaz today on all of this, including whether he thinks folks like Harvard's Tribe and other accountability groups may sign on to FSFP's effort) they are collecting signatures on a petition at GarlandMustResign.org); the outrage of actual legal protections the DoJ has been offering on Trump's behalf in court; and whether he believes that state prosecutors in New York and Georgia, at this point, are more likely to ultimately bring at least some accountability for at least some of Trump's many crimes.

Also on today's show, more troubling evidence of outrageously extreme partisan gerrymandering being enacted as we speak by Republican-controlled states around the country, and the need --- for the survival of democracy itself --- for Democrats to step up in response, whether by partisan gerrymandering states that they control or, preferably, by passage of federal voting rights and election reform legislation in Congress, such as the Freedom to Vote Act, to ban partisan gerrymandering in all 50 states prior to the 2022 midterm elections...

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