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Latest Featured Reports | Friday, September 25, 2020
Yes, We Can...But Will We?: 'BradCast' 9/24/20
Staring down -- and making sense of -- Trump's cowardly threats against a peaceful transition and to democracy itself; Also: Accountability coming soon for Trump Family in NY; And, yes, even TX is now in play...
'Green News Report' 9/24/20
  w/ Brad & Desi
CA to end sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035; 'Alarming increase' in heat and drought in U.S.; PLUS: China announces bold pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2060...
Previous GNRs: 9/22/20 - 9/17/20 - Archives...
Why is Team Trump Joining PA's Dem SoS to Defend Unverifiable Touchscreen Voting?: 'BradCast' 9/23/20
Guest: Investigative journo Art Levine: Also: FBI's odd 'Announcement' on election fakery...
Why Does the FCC Allow Sinclair to Violate Ownership Rules in Baltimore?
An investigation of FCC, SEC docs in citizen-filed 'Petition to Deny' licensing for three stations controlled by the media giant may help end 'sham' control of our public airwaves...
Law Prof: Dems' One Chance to Fix Our Broken Democracy is to Expand SCOTUS: 'BradCast' 9/22/2020
Guest: Harvard Law's Michael Klarman; Also: 200,000+ dead; GOP's Supreme hypocrisy...
'Green News Report' 9/22/20
  w/ Brad & Desi
Beta breaks new records as it grinds into Gulf Coast; Smoke from record Western fires causes health crisis; More mega-fires coming; PLUS: RBG's environmental legacy...
Previous GNRs: 9/17/20 - 9/15/20 - Archives...
RBG RIP and the Fight Over What Happens Now:
'BradCast' 9/21/20
Her historic legacy and the unspeakable GOP hypocrisy over her replacement; Also: Callers ring in on what Dems must do next and on expanding the stolen SCOTUS...
Sunday 'Rest in Notorious Peace' Toons
So many cries for Justice in PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best political toons...
'RECOUNTED' with Nils Gilman, Mark Joseph Stern: 'BradCast' 9/18/20
On potential disruption, Constitutional crisis after 2020 election; And the long-overdue end of a racist voter suppression law in NC...
Federal Court Blocks 'Politically Motivated' USPS Changes, Orders Sorting Machines Reinstalled
Judge charges Postmaster General mandates undermined integrity of 2020 election...
More Wins in the War Against the War On Voting in PA, OH, SC & USPS: 'BradCast' 9/17/20
Also: Trump FBI Dir. confirms 2020 Russian interference; Former top Pence staffer plans to vote for Biden; Much more you need to hear...
'Green News Report' 9/17/20
  w/ Brad & Desi
Sally slams AL, FL, GA with record rain, floods; Fires in West behind mass bird die-off; Trump names climate denier to NOAA; PLUS: 175-yr old science issues first-ever endorsement...
Previous GNRs: 9/15/20 - 9/10/20 - Archives...
GA's 'Experts' Flounder in Court Defending State's New Unverifiable Touchscreen Vote Systems: 'BradCast' 9/16/20
Guest: Plaintiff Marilyn Marks; Also: Sally soaks AL, FL; Results of 2020's final primary in DE...
Mostly Good News in Battle-ground Ballot Battles in WI, OH, NV: 'BradCast' 9/15/20
Also: 175-yr old science mag's first-ever endorsement; Broadcast news outlets failing to inform electorate about worsening climate crisis...
'Green News Report' 9/15/20
Hurricane Sally approaches, with more storms on the way; Deadly West Coast fires break more records; PLUS: Biden blasts 'climate arsonist' Trump and urges swift action...
Fires and Liars and Modems, Oh My!: 'BradCast' 9/14/20
Guest: Jenny Cohn on 2020 hacking fears; Also: Climate-fueled fires breaking records; More storms on way; Trump says climate change, like COVID, to just go away...
Sunday 'Can't Trust the Media' Toons
But you CAN trust PDiddie to post the best of the past week's political toons in his latest collection...
Woodward Goes Wayward in 'Biggest Scandal in Modern Journalism': 'BradCast' 9/10
Guest: Journalist David Sirota; Also: Whistleblower, new report reveal U.S. Intel fully upside-down under Trump...
'Green News Report' 9/10/20
'Unprecedented' wildfires explode across Western U.S., man-made climate change is to blame; PLUS: Trolling for Florida votes, Trump flip-flops on offshore drilling ban...
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...


On her historic, nation-changing legacy and the unspeakable GOP hypocrisy over her replacement; Also: Callers ring in on what Dems must do next and on expanding the stolen SCOTUS...
By Brad Friedman on 9/21/2020 6:30pm PT  

On today's BradCast: I suspect you know what we'll be covering. [Audio link to show follows below.]

But, briefly today, before we get to the titanic battle over what may happen in the next 43 days before Election Day, we begin with a few words of warning from Desi Doyen on the latest incoming Hurricanes/Tropical Storms. In the most immediate case, Tropical Storm Beta (so named because we've run out of alphabetical names in this record, climate change-fueled storm season), is set to make landfall near flood-prone Houston on Monday night before a very slow and dangerously wet roll up the Gulf Coast toward New Orleans.

But every tragedy and disaster steps on another one these days (even as our COVID-19 disaster has now resulted in at least 200,000 Americans dead, and a Trump Administration that has politicized the CDC so much that once world-respected federal agency removed its warning that the coronavirus is airborne from its website today, with little explanation.) Despite all of that, we are forced to move in short order to the story of the day --- and perhaps of the next 43 days or more --- the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg from metastatic pancreatic cancer, as announced on Friday evening.

We discuss her extraordinary historic legacy both on the Court and before she became a federal jurist 40 years ago, all too briefly today, as the fight over filling her vacant seat began within seconds of her death being announced late last week. Nearly as quickly, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to hold a vote in the Senate on Donald Trump's nominee this year --- either before or after Election Day --- despite spending a full year in 2016 disingenuously claiming that "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice" after Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February of 2016. Back then, Obama nominated centrist jurist Merrick Garland a full 237 days before the Presidential election, while McConnell --- holding fast to his dishonest line that the "vacancy should not filled until we have a new President" --- refused to even hold a hearing on the nomination, much less an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

But now, in this case, following the death of a Democratic appointee with a Republican now in the White House, just 46 days before the 2020 Presidential election, McConnell and most of his Republican caucus in the Senate appear ready to move ahead with their rank hypocrisy at lightning speed. That includes Sen. Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, who repeatedly said over the years since 2016 that he would never support seating a new SCOTUS Justice during a Presidential year --- and that we should remember his comments and hold him to them, if the need ever arises. Nonetheless, with the death of RBG on Friday, the unmatched world-class hypocrite Graham declared the very next day, on Saturday, that he would indeed "support" Donald Trump "in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg."

It appears it will now be up to the voters of South Carolina to hold Graham accountable. According to the latest polling in the state, he is said to be tied in a tough re-election challenge this year against Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jaime Harrison.

So far, just two Republican Senators have gone on record to say they would not support a vote to replace Ginsburg before this year's election (does that mean they'd support it afterward, even if Biden wins? Unknown at the moment.) Those two are Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Collins is also facing a tough reelection battle in her own home state this year against Democrat Sara Gideon. While there are boatloads of Republican Senators who previously vowed they'd not support the seating of a new Justice in 2020, it remains to be seen which, if any, will be able to avoid an appalling, Lindsey Graham-like flip-flop. As of now, just two more Republican Senators would have to dig deep enough to find the courage and intellectual honesty to do the right thing in order to stop any appointment until after the next President is determined by the American people.

There are a number of other possible factors that may come in to play in the days ahead. For example, the potential election of Democratic nominee Mark Kelly over Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona on November 3rd, in what is actually a Special Election in that contest, could result in Kelly's seating in November, instead of January with the new Congress. If that came to pass, it could mean that just one more Republican vote could stop this charade. There is also the possibility that Democrats could file another impeachment (or two) in the U.S. House to force a trial in the Senate to slow down the nomination battle over whoever Trump nominates to fill RBG's seat.

And, of course, no matter what happens, Democrats need to begin making plans to expand the number of seats on the stolen U.S. Supreme Court NO MATTER WHAT happens with the GOP's attempt to ram through another rightwinger to build on their ALREADY STOLEN Court majority.

And with that, we open the phone lines today for thoughts on RBG's legacy and, much more so, what Democrats should and/or must do now...

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

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Guest: Transition Integrity Project co-founder Nils Gilman on recent election 'war games' predicting potential disaster in almost every scenario --- and how we must work to mitigate it...
By Brad Friedman on 8/17/2020 6:40pm PT  

Today's BradCast is a really meaty show and --- at times --- a quite terrifying one. Apologies in advance! [Audio link to show is posted at bottom of summary.]

We're joined today by NILS GILMAN, Vice President of Programs at the Berggruen Institute and co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project (TIP). The bi-partisan group was founded in late 2019 to examine concerns, as Gilman explains today, about whether a Joe Biden victory would result in a reasonably smooth transition with the Trump Administration or whether, as the group's chilling new report [PDF] "Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition" describes, they needed to be concerned "that the Trump Administration may seek to manipulate, ignore, undermine or disrupt the 2020 presidential election and transition process." As TIP would discover, however, those nightmares could be far worse than the group initially expected. An actual transition process of any kind, at this point, might be a welcome response to some of the group's worse fears.

"Already it's certain that if Biden manages to win, he's going to be handed an inbox from hell," Gilman tells me. "There's going to be probably 15% unemployment. There's going to be an ongoing pandemic. There's going to be a lot of social contestation in the country. We'd like for him to at least be handed a functional bureaucracy. But we weren't convinced that was actually going to take place. ... What we learned in that process was it wasn't just the administrative process that could potentially be disrupted, it would be potentially the electoral transition itself that was subject to disruption."

TIP, a group of more than 100 current and former senior government officials, campaign leaders and other experts from media to the military convened to examine these issues and "war gamed" several different potential scenarios for how things might play out from November 3rd (Election Day) through January 20, 2021 (Inauguration Day). Over four different sessions, examining four different potential electoral scenarios, the highly-esteemed panel of former Governors, DoJ officials, campaign chiefs and advisers of both parties role-played as both Team Trump and Team Biden. As their recently published report details, the tabletop "war game" exercises included a scenario that "posited that the winner of the election was not known as of the morning after the election and the outcome of the race was too close to predict with certainty; in another, the exercise began with the premise that Democratic party candidate Joe Biden won the popular vote and the Electoral College by a healthy margin; and in a third, the exercise assumed that President Trump won the Electoral College vote but again lost the popular vote by a healthy margin. The fourth exercise began with the premise that Biden won both the popular vote and the Electoral College by a narrow margin."

Following the exercises, TIP's other co-founder and Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks told Fox "News" (which happens to play a key role on behalf of Trump and the Republican effort in every case), all of the scenarios "ended in both street-level violence and political impasse." Brooks observed that "the law is essentially...almost helpless against a President who's willing to ignore it."

As Gilman warns in his own recent article "Getting from November to January," explaining how the exercises helped to reveal that institutions from government to political organizations to the courts to citizen activists and media could help mitigate the worst possible scenarios: "Wargaming shows that, short of a landslide victory for Joe Biden in the upcoming elections, we may be headed for a severe constitutional crisis." He adds: "in each scenario other than a Biden landslide, we ended up with a constitutional crisis that lasted until the inauguration, featuring violence in the streets and a severely disrupted administrative transition."

Sounds cheery, no? Gilman, who is also an historian, joins us today to discuss the genesis of the project; the comparable historical parallel to our upcoming election (the 1876 election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, where two different sets of competing electors were sent by states to D.C. before the Constitutional Crisis was finally averted with a comprise that resulted in the end of the Civil War Reconstruction period, launching more than a 100 years of Jim Crow that we are still dealing with today); the specifics findings of the Project (eg. the potential dispute created by Trump's authoritarian use of Presidential powers to, for example, employ the Dept. of Justice to seize ballots and stop the counting) must be met "as a political battle, not just a legal battle"; and that during the exercises, "Team Trump was consistently more ruthless than Team Biden – more willing to ignore existing democratic norms, to make use of disinformation, to deploy federal agencies to promote Trump's personal and electoral interests, and to engage in intimidation campaigns."

As former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, one of the participants in the exercises noted, "The worst news is that, faced with presidential lawlessness, few of the participants at the Transition Integrity Project found effective responses. ... Many of the games turned on who made the first bold move. Time after time, that first mover was Trump."

While Gilman argues that nothing is inevitable, he notes, "the media will have a huge role in this" and the time to talk about it is NOW. "The plea I would make would be to patriots --- particularly people in the government who have taken an oath to the defend Constitution --- that there are some basic principles, which are not partisan at all. Every American citizen that wants to vote should be enabled to do so as easily and safely as possible, and every one of those votes should be counted properly."

His TIP report goes further to note that it is "just as important that the public has confidence in the count." That, as I discuss with Gilman, may require a level of transparency in our voting system that --- despite my best efforts over the past nearly-two decades --- we have long ago been obscured with computer tabulation and voting systems which make it impossible, after an election, to know if many ballots --- at least those that are not hand-marked paper ballots --- actually reflect the intent of each voter.

As mentioned, it's a very meaty show, with a LOT to talk about. Gilman joins us for the full hour, and even that wasn't enough to cover so much of what the group found; what we can all do about it; and whether our mainstream media, the Biden Campaign and the Democratic Party itself are prepared to handle what is very likely to be hurled at them --- and all of us --- as of November 3rd...

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

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern explains today's rulings; Also: Two conditions on Biden's debates with Trump?; Continuing COVID-19 havoc...
By Brad Friedman on 7/9/2020 6:02pm PT  

On today's BradCast: They were the last major decisions of the term for the Republicans' stolen U.S. Supreme Court. And at least all of the Justices seemed to mostly agree that Presidents are not above the law, even if this one was allowed to buy some time before facing accountability. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

Lucky for Donald J. Trump, that extra time granted by two remands to lower courts by SCOTUS today will almost certainly prevent the public from seeing his tax returns and other likely fraudulent financial documents from the years before his Presidency, before he must stand for re-election on November 3rd. Despite those considerable gifts from SCOTUS today, Donald Trump went off on an incomprehensible Twitter tantrum in response. For some, I guess, too much is never enough.

"Not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in one of Thursday's long-awaited 7 to 2 opinions [PDF]. Citing 200-year old remarks by Chief Justice John Marshall, Roberts observed: "We reaffirm that principle and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need." Even accused sexual assaulter Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed in a concurring opinion that "no one is above the law."

While no one may be above the law, Trump received two extraordinary gifts from the court today. One opinion, Trump v. Vance [PDF] effectively postpones the disclosure of his dubious financial documents to the Manhattan District Attorney for a criminal grand jury investigation until, mostly likely, after the November election. The other, Trump v. Mazars [PDF] prevents several Congressional Committees from seeing similar documents that they subpoenaed from Trump's accounting firm, also until after the election --- and maybe never if the clock runs out on the end of the Congressional session in December. It will likely take at least that long to work through the courts with SCOTUS' newly-raised bar for such subpoenas of the Executive Branch by Congress.

We're joined once again today, at the last minute, by Slate's great court reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN to offer his ever-helpful clarity and context to today's complicated opinions, which one attorney today described thusly: "The ruling is 'No president is above the law', but they post-dated it to the Biden administration".

"I think he just doesn't really understand how the Court gave him a gift," Stern explains, in response to my questions about Trump's whining, incoherent Twitter response to today's ruling. "These decisions are wrapped up in a lot of language that pointedly reduces the President's immunity and executive privilege from oversight and investigations. And announces or reaffirms some crucial principles, like, of course a state can subpoena a President's records for a grand jury proceeding and, yes, Congress can also subpoena the President and his confederates and businesses if it seeks to get that information to pass legislation."

"But the Court said 'We are going to draw a line because we're not so sure that here, either the New York grand jury or the House of Representatives checked all the boxes that we think they needed to in order to get this information.' So, there's going to be a run-down-the-clock thing now, where Trump tries to keep fighting this in the lower courts --- at least through the November election --- and that means we may never actually get to see these records that the Supreme Court said, theoretically, we could have a right to see."

Stern observes: "It was almost like it was a carefully brokered compromise to reach this exact result and then work backwards for the reasoning." Nonetheless, Stern notes, even if his financial firms are allowed to escape subpoenas by Congress, "the writing is on the wall" for the subpoenas filed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. "I think the lower court is going to very quickly say, 'Yep, these records can go to the grand jury.' And that's going to be that. It could happen in a matter of weeks."

We will see. Or not.

Next, a few more accountability odds and ends today. Trump received another gift this week in the form of a second --- and still-unexplained --- extension of the deadline for the release of his annual financial disclosure statement. Speaking of, the New York Times' Thomas Friedman thinks that Joe Biden should refuse to debate Trump (who now needs the debates more than Biden does) unless Trump releases his tax returns from his years as President, since he promised to do so in 2016, and Biden has already done so. Friedman has one other condition as well that he suggest Biden place on the debates before agreeing to participate this year.

On the COVID-19 front today, the CDC is now claiming they are not planning to rewrite guidance for the reopening of schools after Vice President Mike Pence indicated yesterday they would be doing so following Trump's complaint that their original recommendation for opening schools safely was "very tough and expensive". And, whaddaya know? There's a surge of COVID cases in Tulsa following Trump's unmasked super-spreader campaign rally there in late June, according to the city's top health official.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report with record-breaking Siberian wildfires; a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season (which only just kicked off!); the new natural gas bomb trains the Trump Administration has just approved to move through your hometown; and some good truckin' news for breathers in California!...

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

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Unlikely either a grand jury, Congress or the public will gain access to any incriminating financial records prior to the Presidential Election
UPDATE 8/4/20: Subsequent court orders/legal filings suggest NY grand jury may get records by September. Will there be an October Surprise?...
By Ernest A. Canning on 7/9/2020 1:23pm PT  


"Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court [Chief Justice John Marshall] established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm that principle and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need." --- Chief Justice John Roberts, 7 - 2 majority opinion in Trump v. Vance, July 9, 2020

In Trump v. Vance, the President of the United States sued to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's subpoena of Donald Trump's accounting firm Mazar's USA. The subpoena seeks financial records that may expose criminal violations of NY law. Those potential violations include, but are not limited to, the sworn allegations presented by Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, that the President falsified loan applications and other financial documents.

The fact that the Supreme Court, as observed by Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his concurring opinion in Vance, "unanimously" agreed that "a President does not possess absolute immunity from a state criminal subpoena" is great news for those who are concerned about the threat the Trump administration poses to the survival of the rule of law. However, the Court's decision to remand the case to the District Court where President Donald J. Trump "may," per the majority opinion, "raise further arguments as appropriate" makes it unlikely that a New York grand jury will acquire the potentially incriminating records that might otherwise justify the issuance of a criminal indictment prior to the November 3. 2020 election.

Given the majority's conclusion, in Vance --- that the President's right to object to compliance with a criminal subpoena is no greater than the rights enjoyed by all private citizens --- it's unlikely Trump will prevail at the District Court level. However, the remand will allow Trump's legal counsel to seek further delays via stay requests associated with future appeals.

In a companion case, Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP --- in which Trump sued to block several Congressional Committees from obtain Trump's tax and other financial documents as part of their legislative oversight --- the Court vacated a District Court order compelling Trump to turn over financial records to Congress. Although the Court, in this case, left open the possibility that the District Court could again order the same financial records to be turned over to Congress after careful consideration of Separation of Powers issues. In this case as well, it is now highly unlikely that the records would be forthcoming to Congress prior to the Election.

The net result is that the Supreme Court has probably deprived the U.S. electorate of access to potentially incriminating financial records prior to the pivotal Presidential Election. That doesn't bode well for small "d" democratic accountability, which can only be accomplished when the electorate is "well informed". That's especially ironic given that even President Richard M. Nixon conceded that We the People have a right "to know whether or not their President is a crook."

UPDATE 8/4/20: Subsequent court orders, an expedited briefing schedule and legal filings suggest that a Manhattan grand jury may actually receive the withheld financial records by early September.

In a July 16 order [PDF], U.S. District Court Judge Victor Moreno adopted the parties' agreed upon expedited schedule, to wit: Trump was to file a second amended complaint by July 27. Vance could answer or move to dismiss by Aug. 3. Vance timely filed a motion to dismiss [PDF]. Trump has until Aug. 10 to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss; Vance until Aug. 14 to file a reply.

On July 17, the Supreme Court issued an order granting Vance's request that the Supreme Court's July 9 decision be effective immediately --- as opposed to the usual 25 days after it was issued.

In his July 16 order, Judge Morero recited the following with respect to Vance's legal posture:

Each of [the President's] potential arguments must be understood first and foremost in the context of the Supreme Court's rejection of a heightened standard for the issuance of a standard of a state criminal subpoena to a sitting President. While the District Attorney does not contest that the President should have an opportunity to advance additional "appropriate" claims supported by factual allegations, consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion, his challenges to the Mazars subpoena must be considered in light of the principle that a President making such challenges stands "in nearly the same situation with any other individual."[Citation]. The President's proposal attempts to elide that standard; indeed, [he] expressly invites this Court to conduct a heightened-scrutiny inquiry drawn from the concurring opinion that was utterly rejected by the majority decision. Equally important, it overlooks the fact that he has already substantially advanced similar allegations in the [First] Amended Complaint, which this Court rejected.

The President states that he may argue that the subpoena "is motivated by a desire to harass or is conducted in bad faith…or that the subpoena is meant to 'manipulate' his policy decisions or to retaliate against him for official acts.' But this Court has already found there was no demonstrated bad faith, harassment, or any other unusual circumstance that would call for equitable relief. And this Court has rejected the President's claim that there was any evidence of a 'secondary motive' that goes beyond good faith enforcement of criminal laws.

In his erudite motion to dismiss Trump's Second Amended Complaint, which was co-authored by Walter E. Dellinger, III, a Duke Law Professor who had previously served as an Assistant Attorney General and as the head of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, Vance lays out the reasons why the Second Amended Complaint must be dismissed and the records promptly produced.

Trump's newest filing, Vance asserts, merely "repeats a conspiratorial assertion [the President] has unsuccessfully pressed for nearly a year to all three levels of the federal courts." The only "new" allegation is the claim the subpoena is over-broad because it seeks financial records dating back to 2011. This "new" allegation is based upon the factually erroneous assumption that Vance's investigation is confined to the 2016 "hush money" payments that were the source of the allegations leveled by Michael Cohen, the President's former lawyer. (Cohen was convicted for his role in the "hush money" scheme.)

In actuality, Vance points out, the subpoena goes back to 2011 because the grand jury, on the basis of publicly revealed evidence, is investigating "potentially improper financial transactions by a variety of individuals and entities over a period of years."

In the motion, Vance based assertion on Cohen's Congressional testimony and cited Washington Post and Wall Street Journal articles. Turns out, the Manhattan DA has additional information in his possession, according to a The New York Times article that was published one day after Vance filed the motion to dismiss. Last year, Deutsche Bank turned over the Trump organization's financial records to Vance's office pursuant to a subpoena. Thus, it's likely Vance already has evidence in his possession to support the assertion, set forth in the motion, that the NY grand jury subpoenas of financial records held by Mazars relate to decades-long "alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers".

Given Judge Marrero's rejections of the President's prior identical legal arguments, and the already significant delay incurred, it's likely that, following a hearing, a new order compelling compliance with the subpoena will soon issue. It's unlikely further stays will be granted. Thus, it's likely, a NY grand jury will receive the financial records by early September. If those records are incriminating, the intriguing question is to whether Vance, who is not hampered by DOJ rules against initiating an action, could promptly seek and deliver an October Surprise in the form of an unprecedented indictment of a sitting President.

* * *
Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, and Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). He previously served as a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. Canning has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing




Guest: Mark Joseph Stern on new Court opinions on 'faithless electors', Obamacare and the GOP's ongoing (and now deadly) war on voting...
By Brad Friedman on 7/7/2020 6:52pm PT  

We've got a bit of a roller coaster today between good news and terrible news on today's BradCast. But that's life in the times of Trump and the coronavirus, I guess. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

First up today, the COVID-19 crisis continues to gravely worsen in the U.S., with new record infections and hospitalizations now pretty much every day for the past month. Despite the increasingly desperate concerns expressed by health experts, especially for hotspots where Governors reopened states far too early, some Republicans from the President of the United States on down are calling for measures that will only increase infection rates, hospitalizations and, yes, death.

Florida's Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Monday, for example, declared that all public schools must reopen next month to all students for in-person classes five days a week. His emergency order notes that reopening schools is critical to "a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride". That, despite more than 200,000 confirmed cases and new record daily infection rates each day for weeks now in the Sunshine State.

At the same time, in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Donald Trump held a White House event to demand the reopening of schools and to praise Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis for a "terrific job" in ordering them to open. Trump claimed that schools have been closed elsewhere for "political reasons" and added that "we are very much going to put pressure on Governors and everybody else to open the schools." This is now a death march being led by the President of the United States.

But if Republican politicians are fine sending children and their teachers and their families to their potential deaths, how do you think federal judges appointed by Trump or sympathetic to his political cause are going to react to measures being taken to try and make voting safer for Americans on November 3rd? We're joined again today by Slate's ace legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN to discuss Monday's opinions released by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as a disturbing pattern of rulings at both SCOTUS and on the appellate level over the past two weeks that bodes darkly for this year's crucial Presidential election.

First, Monday's new opinions: The Court decided unanimously that states may prevent so-called "faithless electors" from casting their vote in the Electoral College for someone other than the Presidential candidate chosen by the state's popular vote. The issue stemmed from two combined cases of "faithless electors" in 2016, one of which was brought by plaintiff Michael Baca against Colorado. Baca appeared on The BradCast in December of 2016 to explain the reasons for his planned "faithless" vote in the Electoral College that year, before he was later prevented by the state from casting it.

While that opinion, written by Justice Elana Kagan received most of the media attention on Monday, another opinion handed down by the Court that day is likely of far greater import. The Court's 6 to 3 decision, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing for the majority in a case concerning robocalls made to cell phones, actually reveals some very encouraging news regarding a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) that will be heard next session by the Court. Kavanaugh's opinion, striking down one element of a robocall law as unconstitutional while upholding the rest of the law, suggests the challenge to Obamacare by GOP-controlled states and the White House --- seeking to strike down the entire health care law as unconstitutional based on the constitutionality of one single, now meaningless, provision --- is likely to fail.

As Kavanaugh crucially noted in his opinion, in words that will be remembered next year during the ACA case: "Constitutional litigation is not a game of gotcha against Congress, where litigants can ride a discrete constitutional flaw in a statute to take down the whole, otherwise constitutional statute."

"It's important to note that seven justices agreed with [Kavanaugh] on that particular point," Stern tells me. "Only Thomas and Gorsuch disagreed."

And with that seemingly very good news out of the way, we turn to a flurry of recent decisions by both SCOTUS and a number of federal appeals courts that are extremely concerning and revealing as to how right-wing controlled federal courts will be dealing with voter suppression cases and measures intended to make voting easier during the pandemic this November. Recent court rulings in cases out of Florida, Wisconsin, Alabama and Texas, as Stern explains, are very troubling indeed and suggest we could be in for no small amount of chaos, disenfranchisement and, yes, deadly disease, in this year's critical general elections.

There are more opinions to come from the Court before they are finished for the summer. Quips Stern darkly today: "We've got a handful left, and we will see if the Supreme Court breaks our democracy before the end of the term."

Finally, we close with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report, with a bit more news out of SCOTUS and lower federal courts, including some surprisingly very good news on several controversial oil and gas pipelines!...

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Guest: Slate's SCOTUS reporter Mark Joseph Stern on the 'canny legal' maneuverings of the Chief Justice; Also: MS votes to dump Confederate flag; Trump Campaign removed social distancing stickers before Tulsa Death Rally; COVID-19 now ravaging all but two states...
By Brad Friedman on 6/29/2020 7:04pm PT  

As life in the U.S. continues to get grimmer, we find a few much-needed points of light during today's BradCast! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

First up, the GOP-controlled Mississippi state legislature finally voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to remove the offensive Confederate flag symbol from their own state flag. Both the Governor and Lt. Governor support the move and the bill will be signed. Yes, the ongoing uprising against systemic racism in the U.S. continues to bring about long-overdue positive change! Also, there was (mostly) good news in a long-awaited abortion case at the U.S. Supreme Court today, but we'll get there in a second.

Before that, we've been arguing in recent days that Donald Trump should eventually be brought up on charges for what amounts to mass murder in his purposefully and criminally delinquent and negligent handling of the COVID crisis. More evidence of that affirmative endangerment of the public was reported over the weekend by the Washington Post, which obtained video evidence that the Trump Campaign, just hours before his June 20 campaign rally in Oklahoma, removed thousands of social distancing stickers placed on seats at Tulsa's BOK Center venue by its management. As the city's health director pleaded with the campaign to postpone the rally amid spiking infections rates, and local residents and business owners went all the way to the state's Supreme Court to try and block it, the Trump Campaign was purposely making it less safe for rally attendees. The infection rate in Tulsa has continued to spike since Trump's under-attended Death Rally (where he had falsely bragged in advance that there wouldn't be "an empty seat"), as infection rates now continue to rise in at least 36 states after the largest single day increase across the nation on Friday.

Florida, Texas and Arizona, with Republican Governors who were among the first to reopen, are now seeing among the largest growth in infections and hospitalizations in the country. That, despite Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' hubris-filled attacks on the media just weeks ago following an initial lack of new confirmed cases after reopening for Memorial Day and a now-embarrassing rant from Sean Hannity on Fox 'News' claiming that FL and NY "got it right", states like NY got it wrong (NY's infection rate was just 6% of Florida's on Friday) and that "the mob and the media....owe Gov. DeSantis a huge apology." Well, that didn't age well.

Then back to a bit more good(ish) news as the U.S. Supreme Court's Chief Justice John Roberts, for the third time in as many weeks, joined the Court's liberal wing on yet another major case --- well, mostly. It was enough, at least, to strike down an extremist anti-abortion measure in Louisiana, in any case. Had the attempt by state Republicans to insert Big Government in-between a woman and her doctor been upheld by the Court, it would have left the entire state of 4.6 million with just one single doctor legally allowed to perform the still-Constitutionally protected medical procedure.

We're joined today by one of our favorite SCOTUS corespondents, MARK JOSEPH STERN of Slate, to explain today's 4 to 1 to 4 opinion which resulted in the end of the state law requiring abortion doctors to unnecessarily obtain difficult-to-receive hospital admitting privileges. While abortion rights activists are breathing a sign of relief today, Stern explains, they likely won't have long to enjoy it. The Court with a stolen Republican Majority still appears hell bent on rolling back Roe v. Wade, he says.

While Roberts, in his own concurring opinion [PDF], effectively joined the liberals again today in striking down the Louisiana law --- again, maddening the right-wingers in the bargain --- he "is a very canny legal strategist, who still quite obviously opposes the Constitutional right to an abortion," Stern warns. In fact, what Roberts opinion today did was "leave us with a state of abortion jurisprudence that sort of rewinds the clock back to maybe 1992. Whereas, for the past four years, at least in theory, we have had a more robust protection of Constitutional rights."

With Roberts' new opinion, Stern reports, abortion rights proponents have actually lost some ground, even while the second "admitting privileges" law to find its way to the Court in four years was again struck down --- just like the previous virtually identical one out of Texas in 2016 (which Roberts then voted to uphold.)

The Chief Justice also voted recently with the Court's Democratic appointees to ban LGBTQ employment discrimination and in striking down Trump's rollback of DACA protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrant children who were brought here by their parents. So, why has Roberts seemingly become a "liberal squish" on three important landmark cases this session? Stern argues that he hasn't at all. Another ruling today regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in which the Court's rightwing 5 to 4 majority dreamed up new (non-existent) Constitutional powers for the Presidency, and a SCOTUS decision over the weekend to block absentee voting for all voters --- not just those 65 and older --- in Texas, in the middle of a pandemic, and in clear violation of the 26th Amendment, is just more evidence that the Republicans' stolen SCOTUS majority is still anything but "liberal", even after these three recent surprise opinions on LGBTQ rights, DACA and abortion.

Stern also offers his thoughts on whether Roberts would be voting as he has been of late if Justice Anthony Kennedy was still on the Court as its swing vote, and whether all of this suggests that the Court should now be expanded in response to theft of what should have been an actual liberal majority by now...

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Guest: Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute; Also: Bolton book confirms what every honest person already knows...
By Brad Friedman on 6/18/2020 7:07pm PT  

On today's BradCast: There is one thing that Donald Trump excels at: screwing up. Despite his promises to his nativist racist base to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, even his stolen U.S. Supreme Court had to concede his attempt to do so was unlawful and unconstitutional [Audio link to full show is posted below]

It was the second such defeat for the haters this week, after Trump's own appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, found it unlawful in his 6-3 majority opinion to fire someone simply because they are gay or trans, as had been legal in most states before this week's landmark ruling. Today's defeat for our feckless President was found in the 5-4 majority opinion [PDF] authored by Chief Justice John Roberts who, with the Court's four Democratic appointees, held that, in Trump's haste to end the program that protects from deportation nearly 800,000 people brought here by their parents as children, the Administration did so in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

No, Roberts isn't turning into a liberal squish, despite the blustered outrage from rightwingers today. The APA statute requires a reasonable explanation for overturning Executive Actions by previous Presidents, and the Roberts majority determined --- as with Trump's botched attempt to add a citizenship question to the Census last year --- the Administration couldn't even muster up one.

We're joined by SARAH PIERCE, policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, to describe the "surprise", if narrow, opinion, that protects DREAMers for now, but allows Trump to try again if his Administration can figure out how to do it legally. "No one expected the Supreme Court to rule against the Trump Administration and how it went about ending DACA. We're all extremely surprised by this decision --- and happy, because this is a large group of young people we're talking about in the United States that contribute a lot to our country, and society, and economy. So it's good news all around," she tells me.

In addition to the good news that these folks --- some 20,000 of whom are now working in the health care industry during the pandemic, many others in the U.S. military, many more now married with U.S. citizen children --- will not be ripped out of their communities and sent back to countries they don't remember or even speak the language, the economy will also not have to suffer another $300 billion blow. That is just one of the costs cited by Roberts in his opinion as unlawfully ignored by the Administration when they violated the law in trying to reverse DACA.

Naturally, Trump played the victim, describing this week's two SCOTUS verdicts that did not go his way as "horrible & politically charged decisions" and "shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives." He then pitifully asked: "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?" No. But pretty much nobody else does.

For his part, President Obama lauded the decision, citing DACA as having "protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation." He called for Joe Biden to be elected with "a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that's truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all."

As Pierce explains on today's show, Congress has, for years, been on the verge of passage of an immigration bill to protect DREAMers. Those efforts, however, are inevitably scotched by Trump and the GOP, who seem to prefer a political issue they can raise money on to an actual permanent solution to the problem.

"We've always gotten a lot of mixed messages on this, not only from Donald Trump's statements but from his actions, as well," says Pierce, referencing his 2017 tweet when he asked: "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?," followed by his tweet two years later when he referred to some DREAMers as "far from 'angels" and "very tough, hardened criminals."

"Both the Senate and the House took time to seriously consider passing legislation on DREAMers," Pierce notes. "And the White House really torpedoed that, both times, by adding a bunch of demands that were just unsuitable for Democrats to take on. So we have them moving one step forward, clearly with the interests of DACA recipients interests in mind, and then taking two steps back. They're all over the place."

Whether these failures harm or hurt Trump's reelection chances remains to be seen. He is already demanding "more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else." But, of course, as his former National Security Advisor John Bolton's new book makes clear --- according to reporting on copies obtained by media before next week's official publication date --- everything Trump does, every decision he makes as President, is not based on how it might help Americans, but on how it might help his reelection chances. That includes an attempted quid pro quo scheme, according to Bolton, to lift U.S. sanctions against China in exchange for their purchase of soybeans and wheat to help voters in the Midwest that Trump believes he needs to win in 2020.

The conversation described by Bolton between Trump and Chinese President XI Jinping mirrors the extortion scheme with Ukraine's President that resulted in Trump's impeachment last year. Shamefully, though Bolton would have bolstered the Democrats' case against Trump in the impeachment trial, he chose to hold his revelations for his new book. Please don't buy that book, even as everything so far described from it regarding Trump's failures and fecklessness as both a President and a human being sounds 100% plausible.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report, as the corporate person known as California utility company PG&E admits guilt to 84 counts of manslaughter (don't worry, despite all the deaths they admit to causing, nobody will actually go to jail); as new analyses find the nation could move to 90% renewable electricity in just 15 years and save money doing it; and as the 2020 wildfire season sparks up with an ominous beginning...

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Guest: Slate's legal and justice reporter Dahlia Lithwick; Also: Pence Press Sec., Stephen Miller's wife, tests positive for coronavirus...
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2020 6:54pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: This week the Republican's stolen U.S Supreme Court took a huge step forward toward public transparency by live-streaming their oral arguments for the first time in history. No, it wasn't on video. It was via telephonic conference call. But one step at a time, I guess. There's something, anyway, to thank the coronavirus for. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We're joined today by Slate's Supreme Court legal expert and justice reporter DAHLIA LITHWICK to discuss the first-ever oral arguments by phone for the Court and the first to be broadcast live to the nation. It was also the week when the nation's heart skipped a beat or two for a short time upon learning that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been "hospitalized with an infection". Turns out the infection was thankfully not COVID-19, but a gallbladder matter which left the 87-year old Justice able to participate in the week's historic telephonic arguments from her hospital bed in Maryland.

"It reminds us," Lithwick says, "pinning all of our hopes on an octogenarian...is a pretty scary way to be doing justice. But in a really profound way, it kind of reminds us that the people who are getting shredded by this virus are that generation" and "It does make you realize how unbelievably susceptible the bulk of the Supreme Court is right now."

Beyond that, Lithwick, who hosts her own Slate podcast, AMICUS, sees this week's live broadcasted SCOTUS hearings as an encouraging step toward transparency for a Court that has been frustratingly camera shy. She also cautions, however, that the live broadcasts allowing Americans to hear how our laws are adjudicated at the nation's highest court in real time may not last after the pandemic subsides.

However, the week's historic hearings went well enough, she reports, even if the structure required to carry out oral argument by conference call necessarily changed the way in which cases have traditionally been argued in person, as Justices were not able to interrupt each other to press various arguments as they have always done --- and even as someone on the call forgot to mute their phone during a toilet flush heard during one of the first day's hearings.

Yes, we get to the straight poop on who may have been behind "the flush heard round the world" today, before turning to the substance of the actual cases heard before the Court. One was a fairly straightforward case on trademarks. Another was a much less simple one on whether religious groups and even private businesses have their religious rights infringed by being allowed to opt out of the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Yes, plaintiffs in this case --- including the Little Sisters of the Poor, a small group of nuns in Pennsylvania --- argue that being allowed to opt out of having their insurance provider offer contraceptive care to their employees somehow violates their religious and "moral" freedoms (whatever "moral" freedoms may be.)

We also discuss how the Court has selectively decided which of the many previously postponed cases from March and April (cancelled until the Justices figured out how to dial a telephone) would be rescheduled for this session versus the next one, where opinions will not come out until well after the critical 2020 Presidential election.

We then move on to an important (if too brief) conversation about how rightwingers seem to misunderstand the actual meaning of their favorite words "freedom" and "liberty", as invoked by the slave-holding founders of our Constitution. That, as anti-lockdown protesters haul semi-automatic rifles into state legislatures to demand the lifting of stay-at-home restrictions, shoot people who ask them to follow the law by wearing face masks inside stores, cite "tyranny" and invoke Japanese internment camps (as a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice recently did) and call for the "LIBERATION" of states with Democratic Governors (as the President of the United States recently did.)

In her most recent column on this point, Lithwick flagged an essay by Ibram X. Kendi at the Atlantic which speaks to the "long-standing difference between core notions of what he calls freedom to and freedom from". The latter is seemingly being pushed out of the public square in favor of the former.

We discuss what Lithwick describes as "the movement out there that says, 'I don't have to wear a mask,' 'I have a Constitutional right to carry a gun into the capitol,' those are 'freedom to' values, but they subordinate huge masses of people who actually want to be free from those very things. These are a lot of the same arguments that people make about the Second Amendment. That they want to be free to parade around a restaurant, open carrying, and they don't realize that freedom for a lot of Americans is freedom from the terror of that act."

"I think that is a really emblematic new trend, where we're seeing these religious claims that say my freedom to X somehow subordinates and dominates your freedom to, in the Little Sisters context, have access to a statutory entitlement to contraception. My freedom to X, discriminate against people that I don't want to bake a wedding cake for, somehow is more important than your freedom from discrimination based on any identifiable class," Lithwick tells me. "I think this is a tension that is permeating how the courts are looking at a lot of values."

"It probably goes without saying, but let's go ahead and say it --- that it does seem as though if you are a straight, white Christian male, you have a lot of 'freedom to'. Even now, if you are protesting in the capitol in Michigan, if you're a white guy with a gun, your freedom to XYZ is predominant. And if you are an African-American out for a jog, your freedom from being executed summarily doesn't seem to matter. So I think part of the problem with this thumb on the scale for "freedom to" claimants is that it's not distributed equally across race, class, gender, or economic well-being."

Please tune in for that conversation --- and/or read Lithwick and Xendi at the links above --- for more than I have space or time to break down here for the moment on that important discussion.

Finally today, some quick news, an update, and some listener mail. The news is about the coronavirus working its way into the White House via Donald Trump's personal valet who tested positive this week and via Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, who tested positive today. After being in close contact with Pence and members of the press, it should also be noticed that Miller is married to Trump's Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, who is in close regular contact with the President of the United States. Will we see a change in the Administration's rush to reopen the country long before health experts say it is safe to do so if COVID begins to find its way into the White House --- and, perhaps, even the Oval Office?

The update is on the decision by Arizona's Health Department to reverse its cancellation earlier this week of the work by state university scientists on COVID-19 modelling.

And the listener mail regards a local postmaster who says he's decided to retire earlier than planned after "hatred" directed at his staff "by the segment of our town who watch Fox News" who are now "yelling" at Postal Workers for wearing masks on the job. Yes, it's an insane way to end another insane week in these "United" States of America...

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Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern on that and pandemic affects on immigration courts, prisons and the Judiciary; Also: Statewide 'stay-at-home' mandates; Mask shortages and price gouging; More postponed primaries; and socialist Trump comes unglued at WH presser...
By Brad Friedman on 3/20/2020 6:57pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Governors in California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania are among the first to issue statewide "stay-at-home" orders, though more are likely to do so very soon as the nation begins to self-quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. But is it possible, legal or Constitutional that Donald Trump could exploit this serious public health crisis to postpone or cancel this November's critical Presidential election? We gets some legal and Constitutional answers to that question today and the answers are both comforting and not comforting at all. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

But first, CA Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a letter to Donald Trump, warned that, without mitigation efforts, including help from the federal government, as many as 56% of the Golden State's population (or 25.5 million people here) could become infected over the next two months.

At the same time, a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers has led to price-gouging by the nation's medical supply companies, according to a GA healthcare CEO who says he is being charged $7 a piece for critical masks that usually cost .58 cents each. But why do we even have a shortage, given that we've known about this matter for months and Trump has now supposedly invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing the federal government to commandeer manufacturing facilities to meet critical needs for the nation's security?

At the same time, just days after the Republican Party had been tarring the Democratic Party as "socialists", Republicans are now calling for major socialist giveaways to combat the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, Trump is even calling for the federal government to take ownership in private corporations that may soon be receiving yet another socialist bailout. That's right, according to the President, Republicans like him now support the very definition of socialism wherein the government takes control of the means of production.

Then again, based on the President's unhinged behavior at today's White House press briefing, which we share on the show, he may be losing track of reality even faster than previously.

All the while, states around the nation continue to postpone previously scheduled Presidential primary elections, with Connecticut and Indiana over the past 24 hours joining more than a half dozen states who have already done so. But, never mind the primaries. With a desperate, already-unbalanced President like Trump, would anybody be surprised if he attempted to invoke national emergency powers amid a global pandemic to try and cancel this November's Presidential election all together? And, if he wanted to, does either federal law or the U.S. Constitution allow him to do so?

Slate's ace legal and court reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN has been looking into that point which, he tells us, might have seemed crazy just a few weeks ago, but no longer. The short answer is no, Trump can't do it on his own, not without Congress agreeing. But there are enough "red" states with a mechanism for doing so that, under this Presidency, you'd be ill-advised to keep your guard down. He explains the no-longer-unimaginable circumstances that could occur.

He also details how the Trump Administration recently ordered immigration judges to remove CDC posters warning about the coronavirus epidemic from their courtrooms, as crowded detention centers become breeding grounds. Stern says that, at this point, with this crisis and some 50,000 jammed into crowded, unsanitary detention camps, "the entire system is in total disarray."

Stern has also been reporting of late on how it's not only the Executive Branch that has monumentally failed to take appropriate action for weeks to prevent the spread of the virus --- the Judicial Branch, headed up by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, has failed mightily on that score, as both courtrooms and prisons have turned into viral petri dishes over the past several weeks. "It is a mess, because the chief judge of every different district court is making these decisions on the fly," he tells me. "Unfortunately, people are still being exposed to this virus in federal courtrooms right now. "

But at least Roberts has cancelled oral arguments before his own Court this month, including cases regarding whether Trump must release his taxes to law enforcement officials and whether or not Presidential Electors in states across the country must, in fact, vote the way their state's have when those electors cast their lot with the Electoral College. That question --- if SCOTUS ever reconvenes and issues an opinion on it --- may play a key role in the question regarding the ability of this President to effectively cancel this year's Presidential election.

All of those issues, and many others today, in another don't-miss, news-packed BradCast!...

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Guest: Martin Longman of Washington Monthly and Progress Pond...
By Brad Friedman on 1/22/2020 6:31pm PT  

Our special coverage of the ongoing U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial of Donald John Trump continues on today's BradCast following Tuesday's marathon session that ended at nearly 2am in the nation's capital, before beginning again with opening arguments on Wednesday. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

On Tuesday, Republicans voted repeatedly along party lines to block 11 different amendments proposed by Democrats to allow for various first-hand witnesses to Trump's alleged High Crimes and Misdemeanors and documents being withheld by the White House that underscore other evidence in the two Articles of Impeachment.

Republican Senators blocked amendments proposed by Democrats to subpoena documents from White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; Documents from the State Department detailing the President's call with Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelinsky, as Trump withheld military assistance and a White House meeting in hopes of strong-arming Ukraine's new anti-corruption President to announce (not to carry out, just to announce) investigations into Trump's potential 2020 political rival Joe Biden; Documents from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which the President illegally ordered to withhold nearly $400 million in Congressionally-appropriated military assistance; Documents from the Pentagon where officials were reportedly troubled about potential violations of law in withholding the funds; a subpoena for Mulvaney himself to give testimony in the trial; A subpoena to two OMB staffers who carried out the hold on military assistance to the war-torn country; A subpoena for Trump's own former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who regarded Trump's Ukraine scheme as a "drug deal" and who has said he'd be willing to testify if subpoenaed by the Senate because, as he claims, he knows more about all of this than is currently publicly known.

In vote after vote, Republicans voted as a block, with 53 votes, to deny every Amendment offered by Democrats, even against ensuring votes for subpoenas at a later date or to have the Chief Justice authorize subpoenas if the Republican-appointed John Roberts, who presides over the trial, felt any particular witness or document would have probative value by being relevant to the case. "One side is not afraid of a fair trial," lead House Manager Adam Schiff argued, "one is terrified" that the truth might come out.

Meanwhile, Trump offered false comments to reporters overseas at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he echoed his previous lies that he would "love" to have Bolton and Mulvaney and his Sec. of State Mike Pompeo and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry testify at the Senate trial, but he just can't allow it due to "national security" and "executive privilege" concerns.

Back home, the White House team's public defense at the first day of the trial was not well received, even by Republicans, including Chris Wallace of Fox "News" (which is now, unlike actual news outlets like CNN and MSNBC, breaking away during trial coverage for commercials and regular programming, while leaving the impeachment proceedings in a little silent box in the corner of the screen), the House Republicans' own Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, and George Conway, the longtime Republican attorney and activist husband of Trump's Senior White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway.

In a blistering interview with CNN on Wednesday, George Conway charged that Senate Republicans "don't want to hear the evidence because they know the truth, they know he's guilty"; that the charges against Trump are "much, much more serious" than those against Bill Clinton during his impeachment (on which Conway worked); that Trump is a "pathological liar" who "needs to be removed now" from office, because he is "thoroughly unfit for office". Kellyanne's husband also said that he is "deeply saddened" by what has happened to his Republican Party, but sees this historic event as a "moment of reckoning" for the nation and his party.

We're joined today by MARTIN LONGMAN (long known as "BooMan" to many old time progressive blog readers) from Washington Monthly and Progress Pond, for commentary as the Democratic House Managers begin their first day of opening arguments (which could also be their closing arguments if Republicans vote again next week to block witness subpoenas following the White House attorneys' opening argument). We also discuss the rules for McConnell's "scam trial" and why it is that Republicans seem to "lose every round and still win on the scorecard" --- not just in this matter, but going back as far as the Florida 2000 election.

Finally, we close with a few audio clips from Tuesday, when Democratic House Manager Rep. Jerrold Nadler accurately charged that Trump's lawyers "lie and lie and lie and lie", and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in response --- with a straight face --- that "President Trump is a man of his word." The heated late-night exchange resulted in a reprimand for both sides as Tuesday's marathon 13-hour session drew toward its close.

But we close today with a clip from Rep. Schiff's opening argument, citing a chillingly apt warning from founder Alexander Hamilton about "a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents...despotic in his ordinary demeanour [and] known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty [who] is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty --- to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion --- to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day --- It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind."

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Bombshells from Giuliani's right-hand man; GAO says Trump Ukraine scheme unlawful; Senators sworn to 'impartial justice' by SCOTUS Chief; Major design fail found in L.A.'s $300M vote system; L.A. County Clerk finally responds to our coverage...
By Brad Friedman on 1/16/2020 6:23pm PT  

Really just blockbusters and bombshells from top to bottom on today's BradCast. From historic impeachment proceedings to game-changing disclosures to potentially big legal trouble for L.A.'s imperiled new touchscreen voting system. [Link to complete show is posted below summary.]

First up, the historic Impeach Trial of Donald John Trump got officially under way in the U.S. Senate today, with a solemn oath-taking ceremony administered by Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Roberts who will preside over the trial that could determine whether Trump remains President of the United States.

But before we even got there on Thursday, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) came out with its finding that the Trump Administration did, indeed, violate federal law last year when it withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine as appropriated by a bipartisan vote of Congress. "Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," the decision says, finding that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) "withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act." That matter is at the heart of Trump's impeachment.

But before the GAO findings were released on Thursday morning, or Senators could take their oath to do "impartial justice" as jurors on Thursday afternoon as the impeachment trial began, Rachel Maddow's Wednesday night blockbuster interview on MSNBC with Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born right-hand man to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, shook up just about everything and everybody. Parnas, facing charges of campaign finance violations, sung --- and sung like crazy. On everybody. "Everybody was in the loop," he said.

He claimed Donald Trump knew from the jump about the scheme to strong-arm Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden to help his 2020 reelection bid. So did Vice President Mike Pence, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Congressman Devin Nunes and even Attorney General William Barr. We share a few clips from Maddow's jaw-dropping scoop of an interview --- with a recommendation that you go check out the whole thing (which is set to have a Part 2 on Thursday night), before we move on to a few blockbusters and bombshells closer to home out here on the west coast.

Earlier in the week, we broke exclusive details on the pending certification of a brand-new, $300,000,000 unverifiable touchscreen voting system set for first time use in Los Angeles County --- the nation's largest --- in this year's March 3rd Super Tuesday primary elections. As we reported, independent testers hired by the Sec. of State's office to carry out certification testing of the new systems discovered more than 40 violations of California Voting System Standards as the Public Comment period for certification of the County's "Voting Solutions for All People" or VSAP system ends this coming Monday. Given the enormous problems with the system set for use in the critical 2020 Presidential election, we have been urging voters to send public comments seeking a HAND-MARK paper ballot system instead of the failed, unverifiable new touchscreen systems, to the Sec. of State at VotingSystems@sos.ca.gov.

All the while, L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan has refused, for months, to respond to our serious questions about the systems or appear on the show. Well, we've got some new news today on all of that, including a potential lawsuit by the City of Beverly Hills, whose City Council, according to LAist's Libby Denkmann, has voted to approve a suit after discovering the effects of a serious design flaw in the system. The new VSAP tablets only display four candidates per race, before a voter must select a "MORE" button to be taken to a second page. That "MORE" button is right next to the "NEXT" button on the tablet voting system. And that "NEXT" button, takes voters to the next race on the ballot without voters ever even seeing the additional candidates in the race. This is a very serious flaw that is likely to cause havoc for candidates whose random positions on the ballot come as Number 5 or higher in any given race, including in the upcoming Presidential primaries. (If I'm Dean Logan today, I am praying that Bernie Sanders doesn't draw the fifth or later position on the March 3rd Democratic ballot!)

That matter is just one of several that Logan has either refused to speak to or has mislead on when I questioned him, or tried to, as I detail on today's program. But, given the noise we've caused over the past several days with this on The BradCast, Logan finally deigned to offer a Twittered response, excoriating our coverage of the certification testing failures. We share his misleading response in full on today's program, along with a number of the serious points that he either failed to respond to at all, or is attempting to mislead the public about in his tweeted answers. (For example, the fact that after a computer-marked ballot has been supposedly "verified" by the voter, it is sent back through the same printer path where it could be changed by the system with no way for the voter to ever know.)

Finally today, as if that's not enough blockbusters for you, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report with our special coverage of Tuesday night's 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate in Des Moines, the last one before voting begins next month, and one in which our climate crisis, at long last, was front and center throughout much of the forum, happily enough...

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Guest: Constitutional law, impeachment expert John Bonifaz; Also: Kamala is out; Another no good, very bad day in court for Team Trump...
By Brad Friedman on 12/3/2019 6:09pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It was another very bad day in the federal courts for Donald Trump, though another very good one for the Rule of Law (for those who still care about such things), even as a new phase in the President's ongoing impeachment inquiry begins in the U.S. House. [Audio link to full show is posted at the end of this article.]

First up, some quick news of the day. California Senator and one time "top tier" 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate is dropping out of the race exactly two months before voting begins in Iowa in next year's nominating contest and just two weeks before the next Presidential debate set for her home state on December 19. We discuss the ramifications for the race and for the woman who might have been the first black female President (but who could very well still become the first such Vice President).

There was more bad news today for Trump and his family and his businesses in federal court on Tuesday, as a three-judge panel on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with the lower court ruling that both Deutsche Bank and Capital One must turn over Trump-related financial documents to two House committees which had subpoenaed them. Trump and his family sued the banks to block the disclosure of what could be a treasure trove of damning documentation detailing years of Trump's dubious financial history and the sources of his funding after several bankruptcies and denials for loans from banks other than the German-based Deutsche. Despite his many business failures, that bank, for some reason, reportedly loaned Trump and his businesses well over $2 billion. Now that he's lost in court again, he has been given seven days to decide if he wishes to appeal to the Republicans' stolen majority on the Supreme Court before the banks will be required to turn over the records to Congress.

Tuesday's serious legal blow follows another one for Trump on Monday, when U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to place a Stay on her ruling from last week ordering Don McGahn to appear before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee regarding the former White House Counsel's testimony on Trump's many instances of obstruction of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The judge ruled the Trump Dept. of Justice's claim that the Presidency would suffer "irreparable harm," if McGahn was allowed to testify was baseless. She did, however, determine that the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing investigation would be "unquestionably harm[ed]" without it, "and by extension" the lack of testimony by the former White House legal chief "would also injure the public’s interest in thorough and well-informed impeachment proceedings."

Speaking of which, the impeachment action moves from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, with Judiciary's first public hearing on the Ukraine matter. They will work from a searing 300-page report released by the Intelligence panel on Tuesday, documenting serious abuses of power and obstruction of Congress by Trump that have been revealed during the past several weeks of public and private testimony regarding the President's campaign to withhold military assistance from Ukraine until they agreed to help him in the 2020 Presidential election. The Judiciary Committee's central aim, after the House Intelligence panel found Trump "placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States," will now be to determine if Articles of Impeachment are merited against the President.

Our guest today, who has written several books on impeachment and testified to Congress about "high crimes and misdemeanor" is Constitutional law expert JOHN BONIFAZ, Co-Founder and President of Free Speech for People. Bonifaz testified to House Judiciary Democrats during the George W. Bush era, explaining how the founders definition of "high crimes" was easily met by Dubya via his unlawful war in Iraq. He also favored impeachment of Bill Clinton back in the 90s, but tells us today that "nothing rises to the level of the kind of abuses of power we've seen under this President".

Bonifaz offers a preview of what four Constitutional law experts are likely to offer during their testimony at Wednesday's first hearing before the House Judiciary panel and explains how the Constitution's term "high crimes and misdemeanors" was meant to refer to abuses of office that were not necessarily defined as statutory crimes (since there were very few such crimes on the books when the Constitution was first adopted!) "This is not about demonstrating in a court of law that the President has committed x or y violations of the federal statutory code, a federal crime or state crime," he tells me. "This is about abuse of office, abuse of power, abuse of the public trust."

Bonifaz, whose latest book on impeachment with Ron Fein and Ben Clements is called The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump, argues that there is a long list [PDF] of abuses that merit the removal of this President. "We've laid out a number of Impeachment Articles that should be presented in Congress that go beyond the Ukraine scandal. They include racist abuses of power, the abuses of power at the southern border separating children and their families, violating their Constitutional rights. The abuse of the pardon power, in pardoning of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The list goes on," he says. "And this president need to be held accountable for the full range of his high crimes."

He also explains why he is critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats for not moving more quickly when they took control of the House in January, noting that had they initiated the various court battles over testimony and documents at that point, "we would be in a much different position today."

"We are where we are in part because of the unwillingness of the Democratic leadership in the House to do its duty the moment it assumed control of the House of Representatives. They ran on a platform in 2018 to be a check on this Presidency, and it took another nine months into their holding of the House control to start that process of being a check on this Presidency. And that's why we're in this predicament."

I also ask Bonifaz for his thoughts on the White House's legal claims of "absolutely immunity" (it "has no basis in the law," he tells me); whether Chief Justice John Roberts will find a way to block high profile witnesses, like Mulvaney and Bolton, when they are called by Democrats during an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate (Roberts may "apply the argument that 'these matters are still pending in the federal courts,' so he's not going to override that"); whether he concurs with Robert Reich's argument today that impeaching Trump (whether he's removed or not) makes him legally and Constitutionally "unpardonable"; and how it is up to we, the people, to "stay alert, awake and engaged in fighting for our democracy and our Constitution because we cannot rely on those in power to save us and to save our democracy. We have to fight to protect it, and fight to protect our republic."

Finally, beyond the fight to protect our republic, there is the fight to save our civilization itself. On that matter, we are joined by Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report, as several disturbing new studies on "catastrophic" tipping points for the climate are published as the nations of the world convene in Madrid this week for the latest U.N. Climate Summit...

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Guest: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick on not returning to SCOTUS; Also: John Oliver touches on touchscreens; KY Gov. Matt Bevin's reelection contest...
By Brad Friedman on 11/4/2019 6:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast: John Oliver touches on America's voting machine crisis, America goes to the polls again (using those same, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems), and one year after accused sex assaulter Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, one 20-year veteran SCOTUS journalist is refusing to return to the Court...and for very good reason. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First up, as we are now officially --- finally --- less than one year away from the critical 2020 Presidential election, our electronic voting systems in many states are still just as bad and dangerous and vulnerable and unverifiable as they were 15 years ago. And, in a bunch of states and jurisdictions across the country, they are getting even worse and less verifiable than they were in the 2016 election. HBO's John Oliver dipped into the issue on his latest Last Week Tonight on Sunday night and got a lot of stuff right regarding our easily-hacked, oft-failed touchscreen voting systems that have been in use over the past several decades. Unfortunately, he also left out a whole bunch of stuff regarding the new and equally vulnerable and 100% unverifiable computer touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) which are now being installed and proliferating in states (many of them key battlegrounds) from coast to coast before 2020. In short, as we detail, Oliver's report was excellent....if this was 2009. As it is now 2019, however, his commentary was a bit wanting. But, we'll take what we can get and that, of course, is why you have The BradCast.

In related-ish news, a bunch of off-year state and local elections are happening in several states on Tuesday. Among the noteworthy contests is the gubernatorial race in Kentucky, where the unpopular and very Trumpy Republican Governor Matt Bevin is fighting for his life in a race with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear (son of the Bluegrass State's former Governor Steve Beshear), in what pre-election polls suggest is currently a dead-heat contest. But, as we detail today, Bevin was down anywhere from 3 to 5 points in pre-election polling during his first run for Governor against then Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in 2015. Nonetheless, as we detailed that year, he somehow ended up winning the race, reportedly, by nearly 9 points in a state which still forces many voters to use the same unverifiable touchscreen voting machines that helped Bevin win in 2015. Many of those systems are the same very old, vulnerable and unverifiable ones which Oliver railed against on his HBO piece on Sunday. Trump is in KY on Monday night to help "drag one of the nation’s most unpopular governors across the finish line," as the New York Times describes it today, in what many see as a potential bellwether race ahead of 2020.

Meanwhile, it has now been just over a year since Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to his lifetime post as an Associate Justice on the Republicans' stolen U.S. Supreme Court. He was seated on the bench almost immediately after Republicans in the U.S. Senate rammed through his nomination --- with the help of a trumped up FBI "investigation" --- late last year despite multiple, credible allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh from the time he was in high school and college.

Longtime SCOTUS journalist DAHLIA LITHWICK wrote at Slate last week about why she has not returned to the Court since Kavanaugh was sworn in. She joins us today to discuss the reasons behind her decision, and why, as she described, she will "not accede to the routinization and normalization of the unprecedented seat stolen from President Back Obama in 2016" by Mitch McConnell and Republicans, nor from the "unprecedented seating of someone who managed to himself evade the very inquiries and truth-seeking functions that justice is supposed to demand" in Kavanaugh.

"One-quarter of the federal appeals courts, at this moment, three years into the Trump presidency, are Trump nominees. We're not just talking about nine justices on the Supreme Court. We're talking about the most strategic, systematic takeover of the federal bench that any president has ever effectuated," she tells me. "And that is happening day by day, right under our noses. And those judges are also going to sit for decades. So it's not just the Supreme Court."

It's a fascinating and important conversation, I think, about not only why none of us should simply "get over it" and "move on", when it comes to both Kavanaugh and the stolen seat filled by Neil Gorsuch, but also why our nation's seeming inability (or even interest) in assuring accountability for all manner of precedent --- and criminal law --- breaking in recent years has brought the country to the perilous position we now find ourselves in: Trump in the White House, the Supreme Court stolen and federal courts packed with unqualified rubes for life, and SCOTUS on the precipice of deciding a number of enormously momentous issues this session from union rights to reproductive justice.

"It's what happened when Barack Obama made the decision that we just are not going to re-litigate the CIA torture program, and this very aspirational notion that if we all forgive and forget, we all get to meet in the middle and work toward better outcomes. It's kind of Lucy with the football --- it never works out to meeting in the middle and working toward better outcomes. It just turns out that, yet again, ground has been ceded," she tells me.

"We're really bad at this. The heart wants what it wants, and the heart wants normal. I think that we keep believing that this erosion, this slow systemic erosion of norms, is somehow normal. I thought it was a law, it's not a law. I thought it was a rule, it's not a rule," says Lithwick. "We didn't didn't used to seat 37-year-old bloggers who've never set foot in a court room as a federal judges for life. And now we do. There's no law, there's just a norm. What I was trying to get at in the piece is that constantly acceding to this and saying, 'Well, this is what it is now' --- that there are costs. There are huge, huge costs to democracy."

"Our scrutiny, our unwavering, unflinching, I'm-not-over-it scrutiny does make a difference," she insists. "We need to hold the Court to the same unflinching, 'we're watching you,' 'we care'. That seems like soft power, I understand it's not optimal, but I think the Court responds. What they really want is for us to put this on page A27 and get over it. And that's our choice, not theirs."

Lots of important stuff here, as I said. Can't really summarize it well enough here, so please tune in.

Also, Lithwick rings in with some thoughts --- which tie into the broader conversation --- on what she expects from John Roberts' Supreme Court following today's ruling by a federal appeals court in Manhattan that Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, must turn over some 8 years of his and his company's tax and other financial documents to New York state prosecutors and a similar decision by a federal appeals court in D.C. last month that the same firm must also turn over similar records to Congressional investigators in response to yet another lawful subpoena...

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Guest: Constitutional law expert Ian Millhiser on the GOP's ACA challenge and the passing of SCOTUS' 'last great conservative Justice'...
By Brad Friedman on 7/17/2019 6:46pm PT  

The United States, according to our guest today on The BradCast, lost "the last great conservative Justice" on the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Justice John Paul Stevens, who lead the liberal wing of SCOTUS before retiring in 2010, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 99 after serving some 35 years on the High Court. IAN MILLHISER, Constitutional law expert, longtime Editor of ThinkProgress Justice and author of the book Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted joins us today to discuss that loss as well as the rightwing legal challenge seeking to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We begin today with a conversation about Stevens' remarkable legacy, and how his tenure was so starkly different from the so-called "conservatives" now seated on the GOP's stolen Supreme Court. Nominated to SCOTUS by Republican President Gerald Ford (after being appointed to the federal bench by Richard Nixon), Stevens, as AP eulogizes, "stood for the freedom and dignity of individuals, be they students or immigrants or prisoners. He acted to limit the death penalty, squelch official prayer in schools, establish gay rights, promote racial equality and preserve legal abortion. He protected the rights of crime suspects and illegal immigrants facing deportation. He influenced fellow justices to give foreign terrorism suspects held for years at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base the right to plead for their release in U.S. courts." All positions now seen as "liberal".

And yet, Stevens said during a 2007 interview that he did not think of himself as liberal, but rather as "pretty darn conservative". Millhiser explains how Stevens was able to separate the law from politics, including his own personal preferences, while remaining true to the Constitution and both the rule of law and Court precedent --- all issues which those who call themselves "conservative" today seem to have a difficult time understanding or respecting.

"When he got on the Court, he was widely viewed as a center-right judge. He personally held very, very conservative views. But what made Justice Stevens a great judge was that he knew his political views didn't matter when he was a judge. He knew that regardless of what he thought about minimum wage, or Obamacare, or whatever else, his job was to be faithful to the law and the Constitution," Millhiser tells me. "He was able to set his political views aside and let the law work. And that is all you can ask for in a judge. If we had conservatives like John Paul Stevens right now, who understand that law and politics are separate, we would be in a much better place as a country."

Moreover, as I note at the top of the show, based on my own reporting from 2013, Stevens was willing to admit when he got cases wrong. That year he conceded that his 2008's controlling opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Board of Elections --- the case which approved Indiana's Republican law requiring voters to present Photo ID at the polling place before being allowed to vote --- was ultimately the wrong decision. That SCOTUS opinion has been falsely cited by GOPers across the country as confirmation that Photo ID restriction laws do not suppress legal votes, but help prevent illegal ones. That is both inaccurate and decidedly not what the Court found that case. In 2013, Stevens conceded, "as a matter of actual history," dissenting Justice David Souter was "dead right" in his opposition and warnings about how the precedent would be abused to suppress the vote.

As to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) challenge we had originally booked Millhiser to discuss before news of Stevens' passing, oral arguments in Texas v. United States were heard in New Orleans last week before a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In his coverage for ThinkProgress, Millhiser, who was in the courtroom, describes the hearing before two Republican-appointed judges (one by George W. Bush, the other by Donald Trump) and one Democratic-appointee as a "disaster for Obamacare".

On today's show, he explains the "dumb" and "ridiculous" basis for the case brought by some 20 Republican state Attorneys General --- and now joined by Trump's Dept. of Justice --- and how the challengers specifically filed it in a Texas jurisdiction, a "a kangaroo court", where they knew they could get a favorable ruling from the lower court judge and were likely to get a similar ruling from the rightwing 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. He describes the suit as "the stupidest case I have ever seen", but notes that the appellate court's three-judge panel --- "the two Republicans on this panel were really wacky and behaved in a really partisan way in the oral arguments" --- may ultimately uphold the lower court ruling, at least in part.

Nonetheless he believes the case cannot possibly pass muster at the U.S. Supreme Court given previous rulings on ObamaCare by Chief Justice John Roberts. However, he has a caveat: that prediction only holds if the makeup of the High Court when the case ultimately reaches SCOTUS remains the same as it is today. That, as Millhiser cautions, is not a guarantee. "If Trump gets another vote, all bets are off." And there are ways that both the 5th Circuit and the Republicans challenging the landmark healthcare law could hedge that timing, depending on how quickly they act and how long they delay both the court's decision and any subsequent appeal.

While the basis for this case, he details, is so absurdly thin, that may not mean it will fail, even if, as Millhiser observes, an estimated 24,000 Americans will die each year if the ACA is entirely struck down as plaintiffs seek --- and as the lower court judge already ruled should happen.

Finally, there was a flurry of breaking news coming over the wires as we spoke with Millhiser today, including Democrats in the House scuttling a vote on Articles of Impeachment against Trump; the House voting to hold AG William Barr and Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt and MA prosecutors dismissing sex assault charges against actor Kevin Spacey. And then we close today with a few thoughts on the House Dems successful vote on Tuesday for a resolution finding Donald Trump's (legally) racist tweets attacking four freshmen Congresswomen of color were, in fact, racist, and on the 4 Republicans in the 197-seat GOP House caucus willing to vote in favor of that resolution...

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Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Biden plummets, Harris and Warren spike in new polling after first 2020 Dem debate; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 7/1/2019 6:22pm PT  

After our two-day Special Coverage of the first 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate last week (Night ONE here, Night TWO here), we begin on today's BradCast to get caught up with some of the important news that we were unable to adequately focus on last week. (Even it may take a few days to get fully caught up, if ever!) [Audio link to show is posted below.]

First up today, we're joined for one last time this SCOTUS term by MARK JOSEPH STERN, the great legal reporter at Slate who has helped us make sense of the Court's most recent term under its stolen Republican majority, including many of the oral arguments since last Fall in a bunch of important cases and all of the subsequent rulings handed down in the past several weeks. The last of those rulings were, perhaps, the most consequential, and both came smack dab in the middle of Nights ONE and TWO of the Dem debate last week.

Today, Stern details the Court's horrendous (if not unexpected) 5 to 4 partisan ruling finding partisan gerrymandering to be perfectly Constitutional, despite all of the lower federal courts which have found otherwise. That, even though the practice, taken to new computer-precision extremes by the Republican Party following the 2010 Census, has bastardized the notion of fair representation at both the state legislative and Congressional levels. (eg. See North Carolina, which largely votes 50/50 for U.S. House members over the past decade, but has been represented in the House by just 3 Democrats and 10 Republicans over all of those years!) Stern describes the majority ruling, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, as a "crushing defeat for voting rights" and a "fiasco for democracy". He explains how the rightwing majority ruling debunks the Chief Justice's own claim that he is the Court's "most aggressive defender of the First Amendment" in that extreme partisan gerrymandering blatantly robs voters of their First Amendment rights by punishing Americans for their partisan leaning, stripping them of the ability to be fairly represented.

"Partisan gerrymandering is uniquely evil and difficult to fix," Stern argues, "because it attacks the foundations of democracy. It entrenches a certain political party's power almost indefinitely, and creates a map that will hold even if the state votes against that party." Now, says Stern, the legal battle to rollback rigged election maps moves to the state court level instead, since SCOTUS has now determined that federal courts have no say in the matter (even though they long ago found racial gerrymanders, if not partisan ones, to be a violation of the Constitution.) "That's why this is the 'nightmare' scenario," he tells me. "Because if the legislature can't fix it --- and why would it fix it, they love what they've done --- you really have to rely on the courts to step in and fix it. And now Chief Justice Roberts has said that the federal courts are not going to hear these claims, that they're shut out forever. That leaves few avenues for relief for voters in these states."

We also get Stern's thoughts --- and callers who ring in on the topic as well today --- on whether Democrats, in states which they control after the 2020 Census should similarly use extreme partisan gerrymandering tactics to balance the scales by keeping Republicans out of power in such states, given that the High Court has granted its blessing for such tactics.

And, speaking of the Census, the other major ruling dropped last Thursday by SCOTUS was on whether or not the Trump Administration may add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. In that case, Roberts joined with the Court's liberals to reject the government's claim that they were simply hoping to add the question at the request of the Dept. of Justice in order to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. That transparently false claim was rejected by Roberts who wrote that it "appears to have been contrived".

In fact, it was, as several lower courts have ruled, even before the evidence from the hard drive of a recently deceased GOP gerrymandering expert revealed the entire charade was specifically meant to decrease the response rate by Hispanic and other immigrant communities in order to shift federal funding and voting power to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. So, that decision was the good news. The not-as-good-news is that Roberts also left the door open for the Administration to try again with a less pretextual reason for adding the question, if they can come up with one. Or, as Stern sums up Roberts' directive in four words today: "Lie better next time." Whether the Trump Administration can do so before the deadline to send the Census to the printer (which, the Admin previously argued in court was a hard deadline of July 1, but now says "well, maybe October would be fine?") remains to be seen.

Next we open up the phone lines to listeners on last week's Democratic debate in Miami. Who do listeners feel did better than expected? Who did worse? The first polling is out today from CNN following last week's debate, finding a pretty huge shift among the Dem and Dem-leaning electorate. The survey finds Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are up 9 and 8 points respectively, while Joe Biden has fallen 10 points since the last CNN poll. That places Harris, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (whose support dropped a few points) all now within just over 5 points from the former Vice President and perceived "front runner" for the Democratic nomination. That pretty seismic shift all comes after just one single debate...with about 11 more to come in the months ahead...

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

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