The news out of Ukraine continues to be grim, but there are a few bright spots here at home on today's BradCast, a way that you can help fight fascism without leaving home, and a renewed challenge to an alleged insurrectionist Congressman's eligibility to run for re-election. [Audio link to full show is posted at the end of this summary.]
FIRST UP, Vladimir Putin is now unleashing outright atrocities and unspeakable war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine. On Wednesday, for example, Russian troops bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol as nearly half a million residents in the southern Ukrainian city have been cut off from food, water, medicine and power for days. It could all still get much worse. In several ways. One of them is that the crippled Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, now in the control of the Russians, has now been cut off from the power grid. Diesel generators are hoped capable of keeping the cooling system for the plant's 20,000 spent fuel rods from melting down entirely...as long as generators can be refueled and kept running.
Yesterday, we discussed a bit how working at home --- as many of us did during the pandemic lockdowns --- can help the war effort against Russia in several ways, if only by tamping down surging oil prices. A new poll from Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal finds a huge majority of Americans, 79%, favor cutting off Russian oil imports, even if it further increases the cost of gas at the pump.
Today, we double down on our call: HELP FIGHT FASCISM! WORK FROM HOME! (For now. If you can. It really could make a difference in several ways!) One of our listeners has some additional thoughts, via email, which we share today along similar lines.
NEXT UP, some good news for Democrats --- and those who support representative democracy --- from the U.S. Supreme Court this week. But that good news on U.S. House redistricting in two critical swing states also served to overshadow some potentially ominous news from the GOP's stolen and packed Court. The good news was that the Justices turned away two Republican challenges to new U.S. House maps selected by two state Supreme Courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Each is likely to benefit Democrats this November. The disturbing, largely overshadowed news, is that the four rightwing Justices who would have preferred to have heard the challenges to the new House maps, made clear in their dissents that they are likely supportive of the bonkers "Independent State Legislature Theory".
In short, that's an old Constitutional argument that's been around for years, but has never received the support of a majority of Justices. It holds that two clauses in the U.S. Constitution delegating the "time, place and manner" of elections to state legislatures means that only state legislatures can set any election law, procedures or district map. That means that any other state officials --- Secretaries of State, state Boards of Elections, Governors through their veto pens, or even state courts --- have absolutely no authority to challenge or change any election-related provision adopted by a state legislature. Under this theory, even state Constitutional amendments adopted by a vote of the people would be deemed unconstitutional!
As noted, it's a bonkers theory. But it's one that now apparently has at least four votes in support on the Republican Party's far-right stolen majority. The dissenting Justices in the redistricting cases made quite clear: this issue will return to the Court soon, and it needs the support of just one more Justice. You have now been warned.
FINALLY, for the past two weeks or so, largely since Russia invaded Ukraine, we've been trying unsuccessfully to get back to a story we were covering closely prior to the war, as its both an important one, and there have been a number of twists and turns in it since over the past several weeks.
As we discussed early last month with John Bonifaz, Constitutional law expert and Free Speech for People (FSFP)'s co-founder and President, voters in North Carolina filed a challenge with the State Board of Elections to first-term MAGA Congressman Madison Cawthorn's eligibility to run for re-election. The challenge is based on their claim that Cawthorn violated Sec. 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars anyone from running for federal office who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution, but subsequently "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against it. The Civil War-era amendment was initially meant to prevent Confederates from running for federal office. Now it is being used to challenge Cawthorn's eligibility to run and, if successful, others as well, including Donald Trump himself if he becomes a candidate in 2024.
Cawthorn spoke at Trump's rally on January 6th, 2021, just days after being sworn in. He is also said to have been among some of the elected officials who may have helped organize the deadly assault on the Capitol that day, meant to prevent the ratification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.
There have been a number of twists and turns in this story in recent weeks. Rather than defend himself before the State Board, Cawthorn filed a federal lawsuit to block the challenge entirely, absurdly claiming the Board had no right to determine anyone's eligibility to run for office. Both the State Board and the state's Attorney General filed motions rejecting that argument.
As the case worked it's way through federal district court, the State Board of Elections paused the challenge, as the state's U.S. House map was being contested in state court as well. Once the state Supreme Court selected the maps to be used in the 2022 mid-terms, Cawthorn's district had changed. The voters who initially filed the challenge to his eligibility, with the help of the non-partisan, government accountability group, FSFP, were no longer residents of Cawthorn's new district. But FSFP found new voters in Cawthorn's new district to refile the challenge.
And then, last Friday, in a gobsmacking ruling from the bench, the Trump-appointed federal judge overseeing Cawthorn's lawsuit to block the state challenge ruled in his favor. Judge Richard E. Meyers II declared that a law adopted by Congress in the years after the Civil War, the Amnesty Act of 1872, somehow forgave not only Confederate soldiers, but also any insurrectionists against the United States at any time in the future. The judge's ruling essentially holds that an act of Congress 150 years ago --- without ratification by any states --- nullifies an actual Constitutional Amendment for all time.
Yes, as FSFP's Legal Director RON FEIN, who joins us today explains, the ruling is largely as absurd as it sounds. Fein explains why, and what FSFP plans to do about it, including their emergency appeal to Judge Meyers ruling, filed in federal court today...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)