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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, October 26, 2021
A 'Lay Down Case' of Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S.: 'BradCast' 10/26/21
Guest: Attorney, blogger Keith Barber on where 1/6 probe is heading; Also: Americans now very worried about climate; Manchin nixing another climate provision...
'Green News Report' 10/26/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Historic storm slams West, 90M face extreme weather across U.S.; Record high emissions in 2020; PLUS: New reports warn climate a growing threat to national, global security...
Previous GNRs: 10/21/21 - 10/19/21 - Archives...
'They Took on the Wrong Guy': CA Mayor Who Sued Big Oil Pushes Back After Exxon Attacks: 'BradCast' 10/25/21
Guest: Imperial Beach Mayor, surfer, conserva-tionist Serge Dedina; Also: Manchin; Callers...
Sunday Spooky Toons
Be very afraid. Just in time for the holiday...It's PDiddie's latest collection of the week's scariest editorial toons...
Anita Hill Still Changing the World, 30 Years Later: 'BradCast' 10/22/21
Guest host Nicole Sandler with author, lawyer, Brandeis University professor Anita Hill...
The Good with the Bad: 'BradCast' 10/21/21
House holds Bannon in contempt; TX Lt. Gov. pays out for GOP voter fraud; CA GOP's recall boondoggle; Vets dump Sinema; Manchin could dump Dems; TX steals minority House seats; IL boosts Dems (a little)...
'Green News Report' 10/21/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
We're making too much fossil fuel; Climate change imperils millions, study finds; CA expands drought emergency; PLUS: Cutting emissions is hard, but will lower energy bills...
Previous GNRs: 10/19/21 - 10/14/21 - Archives...
'A One-Way Ratchet': Biden's SCOTUS Comm. Does GOP's Bidding: 'BradCast' 10/20/21
Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern; Also: 'Contempt' for Bannon; Manchin, Sanders in talks; GOP Senate blocks voting rights again...
'Despair is Not an Option' After Manchin Tanks Biden's Central Climate Plan: 'BradCast' 10/19/21
Guest: UCSB's Dr. Leah Stokes; Also: 'Mass homicide' allegations for Brazil's Bolsonaro...
'Green News Report' 10/19/21
Manchin blows up Biden's climate agenda; EPA to crack down on PFAS; Million of polluting, abandoned U.S. wells; PLUS: McDonald's finally going beyond meat...
Listeners on Whether Ds Should Gerry-mander 'Blue' States: 'BradCast' 10/18/21
Also: How the unvaxxed helped kill Colin Powell; How Manchin is killing Biden's climate change plan...
Sunday 'Democracy's Boundaries' Toons
PDiddie draws a few lines in his latest collection of the week's best toons...
Why Dems Should Gerrymander 'Blue' States (& Why They Shouldn't): 'BradCast' 10/15
Guest: FairVote's Dave Daley; Also: Freedom to Vote in the Senate; GOP physics in VA...
'Green News Report' 10/14/21
Supply chain disruptions spike energy prices; Russia says they didn't do it!; CA bans gas-powered leaf blowers; PLUS: Biden Admin goes big on offshore wind...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guest: Legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Cybersecurity and voting system experts alert CA SoS to stolen election software threat to Recall...
By Brad Friedman on 9/7/2021 6:07pm PT  

We're back! Luckily it was a slow news week while we we're off last week, right? Okay, maybe not. So, on today's BradCast we begin to pick up on just some of that "slow" news. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

After nearly month or so of trying to ring alarm bells for the national media and election officials in California, hoping they would connect the dots between the ongoing CA Gubernatorial Recall election and the threat of Dominion Voting Systems election software stolen from a Mesa County, Colorado's County Clerk's office (apparently BY the Mesa County Clerk herself!) and released into the wilds of the Internet, we had some progress late last week!

Eight of the nation's top cybersecurity and voting systems experts sent an urgent 3-page letter [PDF] to CA Sec. of State Shirley Weber, warning her about the threat that the stolen software now poses to the CA Recall (Election Day is next Tuesday, Sept. 14th) and the need for her to immediately mandate a statewide post-election Risk Limiting Audit to both ensure the computer-tallied results are accurate and to offer confidence in those results to those who may think they are not. That, no matter who wins or loses. As we reported late last week at The BRAD BLOG, the scientists, in their letter to Weber, warn the Secretary that "it is critical to recognize that the release of the Dominion software into the wild has increased the risk to the security of California elections to the point that emergency action is warranted."

Associated Press reported on the letter as it was released last Thursday, as did we. But the response from the SoS' office for now is, shall we say, somewhat lackluster. We hope to have more on this as the week progresses and Election Day nears. But at least it's not only us with our hair on fire about these serious concerns.

Next, there were three disturbing rulings issued --- largely in the middle of the night --- by the stolen and packed GOP majority on the U.S. Supreme Court while we were gone or just before we left. All three cases have major consequences. And, in all cases, the rulings were issued without hearings, oral argument, public debate or oversight, or even full explanation from the rightwing Justices.

One "stunning" ruling prevents President Biden from setting U.S. immigration policy, by forcing him to continue the so-called "Remain in Mexico" policy instituted by his predecessor for asylum seekers coming up from Central America; Another blocked the President's moratorium on evictions amid the pandemic; and, perhaps the most disturbing one, as you may have heard, effectively overturns the long-standing precedent of Roe v. Wade's constitutional protections of the right of a woman to have an abortion in the state of Texas. All three decisions were issued with no hearings or public debate and virtually no comment from the Justice's as part of the Court's "Shadow Docket" while they are on Summer break between terms.

Longtime legal journalist MARK JOSEPH STERN has been warning for a while about the increasing use (and abuse) of the "Shadow Docket" by the increasingly activist authoritarian Court, now that it's been packed with three Donald Trump appointees, rammed onto the Court after Senate Republicans did away with the filibuster to do so. Now, as we discuss with Stern on today's program, it should be clear to just about everyone what it is that he's been warning about.

"With the Shadow Dockets, it means that basically we all have to be on high alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, because at any time the Supreme Court could issue a monumental decision overturning decades of precedent," says Stern, with little or no warning or explanation.

On the "Remain in Mexico" ruling, Stern observes: "You might have thought that the Supreme Court does not let lower court judges issue sweeping injunctions blocking the President's immigration policies. As you recall, under Trump, the Supreme Court's conservatives leapt in, time and time again, to swat down judges who had tried to halt the former President's immigration rules. But all of that is out the window now that Joe Biden is in the White House. Instead, we have a new principle here that, apparently, the President no longer runs foreign policy." In fact, in this case, that lower Trump-appointed judge actually ordered Biden to enter foreign policy negotiations with Mexico and, astonishingly, the high court let the order stand without comment!

"The hypocrisy here is stunning," Stern argues. "The Supreme Court said that the President gets to make immigration law over and over again under Trump. Remember the travel ban case? Remember the wealth-test case? Remember all of these awful cases where the Supreme Court said Trump can do whatever he wants? And then Biden comes in, and the Supreme Court says Biden can't do anything he wants."

On the eviction moratorium, also overruled by the rightwing Justices, "we're being deprived of any kind of clear debate" via the Court's Shadow Docket, where "the conservatives are awarding themselves more and more power to pretend that debatable decisions in the lower courts are so obviously wrong that they can intervene and resolve them whenever they want."

But, of course, the most egregious item decided without explanation or public debate --- or even a hearing in the lower appellate courts! --- over the last two weeks, is the SCOTUS decision that allows Texas Republicans' new abortion ban law to take effect. The state statute bans all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy and deputizes citizens to file lawsuits against anyone --- from family members to friends to clergy members to Uber drivers --- who helps a woman in any fashion to obtain an abortion. Such citizen "bounty hunters" will each be awarded at least $10,000 for doing so, under Texas law. All of this, of course, blatantly undercuts the precedent set by SCOTUS in 1973's Roe v. Wade, establishing a Constitutional right to an abortion. And, it's all now being done under the cover of the Shadow Docket, which even Chief Justice Roberts, in this one instance, was forced dissent against.

Whether the Lone Star State's convoluted scheme of deputizing citizens to enforce the law, rather than the state doing so directly, gets around the mandates of Roe is "a huge question, and it's one that I think deserves a full airing, especially after 50 years of Americans enjoying a constitutional right to reproductive autonomy," Stern explains. "It's the kind of thing that would be debated in public if this were a regular case. And also, traditionally in the law, there's a really strong bias toward the status quo, to keeping things as they have been until the Court can have a full and fair hearing on the merits. We didn't get that hearing here, and yet the Court refused to step in and maintain the status quo of abortion access. So we are left with the nation's second largest state shuttering its abortion providers and forcing women to flee out of state if they want to terminate a pregnancy."

So, what, if anything, can be done about the emboldened far-right's abuse of the Shadow Docket at SCOTUS? We discuss that as well, including measures that could --- and, arguably should --- be taken immediately by Congress to reign in an out-of-control Court. Those measures, however, would likely require Democrats to reform the Senate filibuster in order to enact them --- ya know, just as Senate Republicans did to jam these far-right activist jurists onto the Court in the first place, where they are now using the Shadow Docket to, cowardly, run wild. And, all of that, before SCOTUS even begins its term on the first Monday in October, when, Stern predicts, there is even more bad news regarding freedom and civil rights in these United States...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: FSFP's Courtney Hostetler on federal suit challenging two new vote suppression laws in AZ; Also: John Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act passed by House Dems; NC court restores voting rights to 50k...
By Brad Friedman on 8/25/2021 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It was bad enough in 2013 when Chief Justice John Roberts gutted Section 5, the key provision of the Voting Rights Act. That section prevented discriminatory voting laws before they could take effect. By the time Justice Samuel Alito, on behalf of the Republicans' stolen and packed 6 to 3 majority, legislated from the bench last month to create new tests for Section 2 of the VRA, pulled largely out of thin air, it felt like there was little left in the landmark 1965 federal legislation to protect voters. But voting rights champions are moving forward in courts, nonetheless, even as the battle for new federal voting rights legislation continues.

On Tuesday night, without a single Republican vote, Democrats in the House adopted the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The measure would fix much of the damage done to Section 5 of the VRA by the GOP Supremes in 2013, allowing laws with a discriminatory impact on minorities to be blocked in all fifty states before they can suppress voters. But that bill have to overcome a Senate filibuster by Republicans to become law. Still, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he support its passage, so perhaps he'll support the modification to the filibuster necessary to pass it. Given the federal lawsuit filed last week in Arizona against two new GOP voter suppression schemes in that state, perhaps AZ's Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, another opponent of filibuster reform --- even on behalf off democracy --- will rethink her position as well when the Senate returns from its August recess.

On Monday, however, there was some bona fide good news out of the very closely divided state of North Carolina, where a court overturned a century old law that prevented former felons from voting upon release from prison. The measure, originally enacted after the Civil War to stop access to the ballot box for black Americans, was finally overturned this week, allowing some 50,000 former felons to register to vote immediately. Of course, state Republicans are appealing the ruling.

And, despite good news last month from a Florida court, tossing a GOP cap on how much money can be donated to get initiatives onto the ballot in the Sunshine State, the effort to once again reenfranchise former felons in that state will now have to wait until the 2024 ballot. That, even after Florida voters already voted for exactly that in a landslide 65% to 35% victory in 2018. It seems Republicans will never run out of ways to prevent some 800,000 returning citizens in the state from being able to participate in their own democracy. It's what they do. It's also why it is so critical to adopt federal reforms, currently being blocked by Republicans and a couple of intransigent Democratic Senators.

In Arizona last week, several voting and civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit challenging two laws recently enacted by state Republicans aimed at suppressing the minority vote, according to our guest today, COURTNEY HOSTETLER, Senior Counsel at the non-partisan government watchdog Free Speech for People (FSFP). Her organization is litigating the case on behalf of Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Coalition for Change, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), and Chispa Arizona. One law ends the state's very popular permanent early voting list, which allowed voters to receive Vote-by-Mail ballots automatically for every election. The other restriction requires voters who forgot to sign their VBM ballot to do so by 7pm on Election Night. That, even though voters judged to have a "mismatched" signature on their absentee ballot are allowed to "cure" the problem for up to five days after Election Day.

On the first restriction, Hostetler explains today that the permanent early voting list "is supposed to permanent. It's right in the name." But under the new law, she says, "if you don't vote in two consecutive election cycles, you're out. Two election cycles is not that many. There are local elections, many elections that happen. If you decide to skip two elections, for whatever reason, you're off this list and you might not realize it" until its too late.

On the second restriction, she describes that many voters are unlikely to be able to sign their ballot in time, or even be notified that there is a problem, particularly if they only dropped it off the day before the election and especially in the many cases where there is a two-hour, one-way trip for voters forced to use public transportation.

All of this is supposedly to prevent "voter fraud", according to Republicans in a state which has been unable to show any evidence of substantive fraud in past elections, much less fraud that would be prevented by the new restrictions. On the other hand, as Hostetler details, these laws --- which appear neutral on their face --- are specifically designed to "impact minority voters" in several different nefarious ways.

"We can't divorce this from the history of voting suppression in Arizona," she argues, listing many of the ways in which minorities will see a disparate impact from these laws. "Arizona has an unfortunate and long history of voter suppression of Latino, Black and Native American voters."

As the federal complaint [PDF] filed last week reads: "It is no coincidence that the Arizona legislature enacted these changes only after an election in which (1) for the first time in recent memory, the presidential candidate preferred by Arizona voters of color won; and (2) voters of color increasingly used early voting --- the target of the new laws --- to help elect their candidate of choice."

But how can these restrictions be challenged in federal court, given Justice Alito's absurd, created-from-whole-cloth new "guideposts" for adjudicating Section 2 cases under the VRA, where, as we discussed on The BradCast last month, he literally conceded that discriminatory laws are okay, so long as they don't discriminated too much?

Hostetler explains the groups' strategy for challenging these laws under the VRA as well as Amendments 1, 14, and 15 of the U.S. Constitution which, she argues, these restrictions "clearly violate". She also speaks to the necessity of passage of new federal laws to give voting rights attorneys more tools to work with, since SCOTUS has twice gutted the VRA over the past decade. She similarly offers advice on and what we can all do --- as voters, as citizens --- to help reverse this cycle of insidious voter suppression now setting in across the country...especially in swing states like Kyrsten Sinema's Arizona...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern on activist Alito's 'totally fabricated' new rules for Voting Rights Act enforcement and much more; Also: Corporations break vow on donations to insurrectionist GOPers...
By Brad Friedman on 7/9/2021 5:04pm PT  

On today's BradCast: A very lively conversation with one of our favorite guests...about a very dark moment in our nation's history. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of this summary.]

Last week, on the final day of its term this year, the 6 Republican Justices on the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court majority, "turned back the clock on voting rights," according to UC Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen. A week after Justice Samuel Alito opinion for the majority in Brnovich v. DNC was published, Hasen is "angry" that "so much of the public does not realize what a hit American democracy has taken," as the ruling "reopens the door to a United States in which states can put up roadblocks to minority voting and engage in voter suppression with few legal consequences once a state has raised tenuous and unsupported concerns about the risk of voter fraud. It's exactly the opposite of what Congress intended."

We share Hasen's fury today. Not only about the activist Rightwing SCOTUS jurists legislating from the bench to wholly rewrite the intent of Congress, but also about them ignoring the couldn't-be-clearer, simple meaning of the plain text of the 15th Amendment. The entire thing is only two sentences long. The first declares "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The second states that "The CONGRESS shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." [Emphasis added for our six deceitful, dishonest SCOTUS Justices.]

Once again, the Supreme Court has chosen to simply ignore that second sentence in --- yet again --- gutting the Voting Rights Act, the appropriate legislation Congress wrote, and has amended to strengthen several times, in order to enforce the 15th Amendment, as literally directed by the Constitution. And, once again, the Roberts Court has put the lie to the bogus claim by the Right that the Republican appointees are "originalists" or "Constitutional textualists" who believe only in the literal, plain text meaning of Constitution as it was written. That is clearly, and always has been, a bald-faced lie.

We're joined today by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter at Slate, to discuss, at term's end, the outrage of the "mangled" Brnovich opinion, which now allows Arizona and other Republican controlled states to simply ignore the expressed intent of Congress' specific legislation barring voting laws that result in disproportionate disenfranchisement of minority voters and pretends that the Judiciary, not Congress, has the "power to enforce" the Constitution's 15th Amendment.

"You're dead right about the Fifteenth Amendment," Stern tells me. "And I do think it's worth noting that all of the Reconstruction amendments expressly empower Congress to enforce them. Because the framers of these amendments after the Civil War recognized that it was crucial not to just rely on the federal courts to protect rights, that Congress itself needed to play a leading role in the protection of Constitutional rights. And, particularly, the protection of political equality for people of all races."

"The conservative Justices [they're not "conservative", which we discuss as well!] have adopted this position not just of judicial supremacy but judicial arrogance, that the framers of the Reconstruction amendments couldn't possibly have intended to give Congress power to go beyond the Supreme Court's own interpretation of the Constitution.," Stern fumes. "This is a theme that we see from conservative justices over and over again --- where they say 'We're the ones who decide what counts as a right. We're the ones who decide what counts as legal and illegal, and Congress has nothing to say. Congress can only enforce our own rulings. What five of us say on this Supreme Court overrules what everyone says in Congress and the elected democratic branches. That has led to this twisted position where we don't see a lot of litigators actually speaking about the text of the 15th Amendment because the court has said, 'We sit at the top of the hierarchy, we get to decide, and all Congress can do is enforce our positions.'"

Stern also joins Hasen's (and my) anger in seeing SCOTUS blatantly ignore Congress's express intent for Section 2 of the VRA to prevent voting laws that result in the disenfranchisement of minorities. "What Justice Alito has done," Stern tells us, amounts to simply "making up" a new rule that is "totally fabricated" and "nowhere in the text" of either the law or the Constitution, in setting new "guideposts" for the use of the VRA's Section 2. "The law says very explicitly that any voting restrictions that results in disproportionate impact on racial minorities is illegal."

At the same time that the Court allowed Arizona's new voter suppression laws, Stern notes the irony of Chief Justice John Roberts, on the very same day in another "bitterly divided" 6 to 3 opinion (Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta), blocking the state of California's law that allowed its Attorney General to learn the name of "dark money" donors to non-profit groups in order to enforce state laws and limits. All of which, Stern observes, bodes very darkly for both what is to come in the next term of SCOTUS (major cases on guns, abortion and affirmative action are on the docket) and beyond --- not to mention any laws Democrats in Congress may pass (if they can ever reform the filibuster) to protect voting rights.

"In fact, I have been saying for a long time, unfortunately, that this Supreme Court will strike down large portions, if not all, of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act," Stern warns. "Next term is winding up to be one of the most catastrophic terms for progressives, for the left, in history --- in the entire history of the country."

With that bright news, we also discuss the disappointment of 82-year old, Democratic-appointed Justice Stephen Breyer failing to announce his retirement last week as many hoped, so he could be replaced by a Democratic White House and Senate, while both still exist. And, yes, there is much more in our conversation today regarding SCOTUS at the end of its first term with three far-right activist jurists packed onto it by Senate Republicans who happily blocked a Democratic appointee to the Court for year, before unilaterally killing the Senate filibuster to seat all three of Trump's appointees.

Also today, remember all of those major corporations who pretended to express outrage after the January 6th insurrection and the passage of voter suppression laws around the country, vowing to halt corporate donations to members of Congress who voted against the certification of Joe Biden's decisive victory over Trump? Yeah, as we warned you months ago, most of them didn't actually mean it. Now we have much more proof...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern; Also: NYC mayoral primary will take weeks to tally by RCV system; Socialist wins upset in Buffalo mayoral primary; Dems 'not deterred' by GOP filibuster of voting rights bill...
By Brad Friedman on 6/23/2021 6:00pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The Republicans' stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court handed down a bunch of new decisions today. New York's primaries elections were very interesting in both NYC and Buffalo on Tuesday. And Congressional Democrats vow to fight on for voting rights after Senate Republicans, as expected, used the filibuster to block debate on protecting voting rights. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First, on yesterday's primaries in NY, the race for Mayor in New York City featured almost 15 candidates. But, under the city's new Ranked Choice Voting system, as we explained on yesterday's program, it could take weeks before we are told who the winner is. Whether voters will have confidence in those results --- after weeks of the virtually-impossible-to-oversee RCV counting (and recounting) system --- is anyone's guess. For the moment, a fairly conservative law-and-order candidate, Eric Adams, leads the pack in the ongoing first round of tallying, with about 32 points. He's followed by progressives Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia with 22 and 19.5% each, respectively. Andrew Yang is in fourth place with almost 12% of the vote. As none of the candidates received more than 50 percent, however, the Ranked Choice tallying will soon begin. When it ends, and who wins, is anybody's guess. Yes, even though Yang conceded after his 4th place finish, he could still end up winning under the confusing RCV process. And the winner of the Democratic primary is almost certain to be the next Mayor of NYC.

Meanwhile, up in Buffalo, New York's second largest city, India Walton, a 39 year-old African American socialist with no experience in political office, unseated the city's four-term Democratic Mayor Byron Brown in a huge upset. If she wins the general in November, Walton will be the first socialist mayor of a major city since 1960, after unseating an incumbent Buffalo Mayor for the first time since 1961. Brown, however, reportedly is considering a write-in campaign this fall against Walton, given that there will be no Republican for her to face on this year's ballot in the heavily Democratic city.

Down in D.C. on Tuesday, the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate "won" the vote to proceed with debate on their sweeping elections, voting rights and campaign reform bill known as For the People, when all 50 Democrats stuck together to vote in favor. But they lost anyway, because Republicans, for their part, all voted against debating voting rights, even as state level GOP legislatures are adopting bills all across the country to restrict such rights. 60 votes would have been needed to overcome the Republican filibuster in the Senate, where Senators representing a tiny majority of Americans (about 20 percent, according to Ari Berman), have the ability to block any and all legislation offered by Democrats, whose 50 Senators represent some 43 million more Americans than those represented by the 50 Republicans in the upper chamber. Nonetheless, Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi all vowed to fight on, with Pelosi announcing that Dems would "not be deterred"; Biden declaring "this fight is far from over"; and Schumer promising that Tuesday's vote "was the starting gun, not the finish line."

For any of that to be true, however, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, at the very least, would have to agree to change the rules for the Senate filibuster. Dems hope that voters may help convince them to do so over the Independence Day recess, given that For the People is supported by some 68% of American voters.

Next, we're joined by the always-great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter at Slate, to discuss, among other things, the decisions handed down today at SCOTUS, as the Court wraps up this year's term at the end of the week. Despite the 6 to 3 advantage for rightwingers on the Republicans' stolen and packed Supreme Court (because Republicans were more than willing to kill the filibuster in order to accomplish it!), Chief Justice John Roberts, once again, managed to produce largely consensus decisions on all but one of the opinions released today.

Among those opinions, as explained and analyzed by Stern, was a very troubling ruling that kneecaps union organizing rights across the country. That one, which Stern notes "is very over the top" and makes up "a completely new rule that did not exist before," was the one decided by the rightwingers' 6 to 3 vote. It continues the Roberts Court's relentless erosion of labor rights. But there were also reasonable decisions handed down on police powers to enter your home without a warrant and on a high school's punishment of a cheerleader who used the F-word on Snapchat over a weekend while she was in 9th grade. One other decision was also released today, allowing President Biden to replace Donald Trump's terrible director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"There's enough credit to go around here," says Stern, in response to my question about whether Roberts deserves credit for some of the narrow decisions that were able to overcome a bitterly divided Court without causing too much damage to longstanding rights and precedent. "I think Chief Justice John Roberts is in the driver's seat on some of these compromise decisions. But I think that, to some degree, Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett are willing to go along, and so are the liberal justices. I think a lot of these decisions involve compromise on both sides. Some of them include some bitter pills for the left or the right to swallow, but at the end of the day, six justices are trying their best to duck the big issues, and issue really small decisions that don't ruffle too many feathers."

The fallout so far this term, the first with the GOP's 6 to 3 advantage, was "not as terrible as it could be." Though, Stern cautions, "It's not over yet. There are still some major decisions coming down the pike. And no matter what happens, we've still got next term with guns and abortion, of course."

The biggest decision this term, however, may be whether or not 82-year old Justice Stephen Breyer is going to step down to allow President Biden to nominate someone younger to fill his seat while Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, or whether he's going to pull a Ruth Bader Ginsburg and wait to leave the Court, one way or another, after Republicans have regained a majority in the upper chamber. Given that the Senate's Republican leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated he is unlikely to ever allow a Democratic President to fill a Supreme Court vacancy while Republicans hold a majority, we both hope that Breyer will take McConnell at his word, and get out now while the getting is still good.

As usual, it's another jam-packed BradCast. Enjoy!

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Guest: Slate legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Biden soaring in polls, young voters hopeful again about the future...
By Brad Friedman on 4/23/2021 6:27pm PT  

Today on The BradCast, a very ominous sign from the U.S. Supreme Court. Very. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

On Thursday, the Court issued a 6 to 3 opinion in Jones v. Mississippi, which shatters years of established Court precedent that had prevented minors from being charged with life in prison without the possibility of parole in all but the most extraordinary circumstances, and where a judge has specifically made a rare finding that the juvenile's "crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility."

But the ruling by the Court this week --- in a case where a boy, Brett Jones, who had turned 15 days earlier, grew up as "the victim of violence and neglect that he was too young to escape," before snapping and killing one of his abusers just after he had abruptly lost access to the medication he took for mental health issues --- is appalling for a host of reasons.

Not only because, at 31 years old, Jones has since become a reformed, model prisoner in every regard (even the widow of his victim has urged the court for his release); Not only for the 6 to 3 majority decision by all 6 Republicans appointed to the stolen and packed Court; Not only for the opinion itself which will consign more than 1,500 others who committed crimes as children to dying in prison; Not only for the fact that this particular opinion was written for the majority by Justice Brett "What I did when I was young doesn't matter" Kavanaugh (of all people!); Not only for the fact that the decision overturns long-standing, painstaking Court precedents developed over several cases throughout the years; Not only for the fact that the majority simply pretend they did not overturn established legal precedent at all; And not only for the fact that Justice Sotomayor was forced to call the majority out for all of that in the starkest, most savage terms on behalf of the minority (charging the majority "is fooling no one" and "distorts [the precedential cases] beyond recognition", even as she specifically quotes Kavanaugh's very own prior statements on the importance of respecting established legal precedent); But, most troublingly, also for what it may portend in the weeks ahead, much less the years ahead, unless Democrats can quickly, at this point, figure out that they better come to their senses and figure out how to reform the U.S. Supreme Court before we see a boatload of similarly long-held precedents in even more disturbing cases, being completely trashed and overturned by this newly emboldened rightwing Court.

We're joined today by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, our go-to Supreme Court correspondent from Slate, to discuss not only the Jones v. MS case itself, but what we should glean --- and none of it is good --- from how it has just played out before our eyes, now that the stolen majority on the Court has a full three Donald Trump appointees packed onto it.

As the newly emboldened rightwing activist Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court this week merely pretended precedent didn't exist, by essentially adopting dissenting views from the several cases that created the precedents, a newly emboldened rightwing state Supreme Court majority in Florida did something very similar. Stern also reports on that case, concerning a people's ballot initiative on recreational marijuana in the Sunshine State, which also underscores the long GOP Big Lies that they oppose judicial activism or Big Government tyranny.

With those outrages --- and what they portend for an era of rightwing judicial activism this week --- we also discuss the new proposal by Democrats in the House and Senate to expand SCOTUS from 9 Justices to 13, and the "kick-the-can-down-the-road" bipartisan Presidential Commission empaneled by Joe Biden to "study" the idea of reform for both SCOTUS and the federal judiciary as a whole.

Stern closes with a heads up --- a stark warning, in truth --- as to the big decisions still to come from the Court before the session ends in June, on the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare"); foster care by same-sex couples; and a clearly unconstitutional new abortion law (also out of Mississippi) in light of Thursday's appalling decision in Jones v. MS, which Stern categorizes as both "barbaric" and "one of the most dishonest and cynical decisions in recent memory."

Finally, in hopes of leaving you with some slightly brighter news after such a foreboding, grim report from SCOTUS and Stern, we've got some encouraging new polling numbers for Joe Biden. But, much more importantly, from young people who, for the first time in many years, and in rather substantial (even record) numbers across all races, are beginning to feel hopeful about the future again, as they see government as an ally on issues of poverty, combating climate change and on health care.

Hopefully none of them tune in for the earlier part of today's program...

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Guest host Nicole Sandler with Constitutional law expert Ian Millhiser...
By Nicole Sandler on 2/26/2021 4:45pm PT  

I'm sorry to end the week on such a scary note, but I don't make the news, I just report it. It's NICOLE SANDLER again, guest hosting another edition of the The BradCast today. [Audio link to the full show is below.]

I read an article at Vox titled "Two Supreme Court cases could destroy what remains of the Voting Rights Act". It so thoroughly freaked me out that I immediately reached out to its author, IAN MILLHISER, and invited him to join me on The BradCast.

The fact is, Trump stacked the courts with right wingers who'll stop at nothing to get and retain power. And it's not only that. We're headed down a really ugly road, as is evidenced by watching the wingnut travesty that began today in Orlando known as CPAC. One look at the stage and you realize something's not quite right. Look closely and you'll figure it out. There's no question that it's in the shape of the Odal Rune, a decidedly fascist symbol that was worn as a badge by the SS during WWII.

I started the show with the latest news. And ended it with some lighter fare because after all of this depressing stuff, we needed something to laugh about. I hope it worked!...

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Guest: Author and 'REDMAP' gerrymandering expert David Daley; Also: Lawyers hate Trump; Dems to boycott Barrett vote?; Federal court allows TX to reject mail-in ballots without contacting voters...
By Brad Friedman on 10/21/2020 6:56pm PT  

There's a lot to digest on today's BradCast, so I'll try to keep this teaser brief so you can just listen. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

First up, it turns out lawyers really don't like Donald Trump, even the ones he actually pays millions to work for him. In Congress, Dems vow "no more business as usual" on Amy Coney Barrett's nomination, but how much are they actually able to do about it? We may be about to find out.

And, as if it wasn't difficult enough to vote safely --- or at all --- in Texas amid the pandemic (or even before the pandemic!), still more vote suppression has just been ordered there by the radical rightwing judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.

A ruling like the one they've just issued to allow mail-in ballots to be rejected based on perceived signature mismatches (as adjudicated by non-handwriting experts) without contacting voters first to allow them to cure any perceived problems, is the type of voter suppression that might have been blocked in advance by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before it was gutted by the GOP-majority U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, in the infamous Shelby County case.

That ruling of a piece of with Karl Rove and the GOP's "Plot for Permanent Minority Rule", as expertly detailed by our guest today, author and FairVote.org Senior Fellow DAVID DALEY in his new must-read cover story for The New Republic this month. Daley unspools the full story of how the unlikely Republican voting rights hero, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), partnered with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and voting rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in 2006 to ensure the re-authorization of the VRA in full for 25 more years. Sensenbrenner held a dozen hearings with nearly 50 witnesses as Chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, in order to compile some 12,000 pages of recent, compelling evidence of racially-based voter suppression that supported the need to extend the then 40-year old landmark civil rights law.

But that was before Karl Rove's successful scheme to gain GOP control of state legislatures in 2010 after that year's Census, in order to gerrymander "democracy" within an inch of its life for the entire next decade. And it was before the Republican SCOTUS majority ignored Sensenbrenner's work on the VRA entirely --- and a bipartisan 98-0 vote in the U.S. Senate to extend the Act --- in order to gut it.

The nation has been paying a very steep price ever since. Republicans in gerrymandered districts in Congress and state legislatures no longer worry about working and compromising with Democrats. Their only concern became primary challenges from the Right. So the party moved ever farther in that direction until arriving where we are today, when the idea of fixing the now-gutted VRA has become unthinkable --- just a few short years after it was re-authorized by a Republican House, Senate and President. The scheme also allowed opportunists like Donald Trump to take advantage of the lost protections for voting rights in gerrymandered state after gerrymandered state, which continues to haunt America's hobbled democracy today.

Daley discusses how all of this came about, how --- and if --- it can be corrected, and how he was able to get so many Republicans who now regret building the "Frankenstein monster that has devoured our politics" to speak on the record about those regrets --- as regular Americans pay an unspeakable price for it all.

"This was not caused by Donald Trump. It did not start with him," Daley tells me. "The fight over the vote has been deeply entwined in this nation ever since the founding of this nation. But these battles did not start in 2016. They will not end on Election Day 2020. And there is a real, deeply embedded, [GOP] minority rule that has been built atop a system that already advantaged Republicans geographically in the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College."

"This has been baked in to our politics for a long time. It's going to take a lot of time for us to get it out. This is a Census year. This is a redistricting year. So state legislatures and the next decade of maps are on the line again," he cautions. So, please VOTE and remember to vote ALL THE WAY DOWN THE BALLOT THIS YEAR! "There are more of us than there are of them," Daley notes, "but there are more of them on the Supreme Court than us, and that's a big, big problem."

And if that sounds like a heavy show, don't worry! Mel Brooks is here at the end to help calm your anxiety --- and mine --- just a little bit...

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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...

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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...

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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!...

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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...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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