On today's BradCast, Donald Trump's Administration is now barreling the nation towards one or more unprecedented Constitutional crises as he panics about the possibility of impeachment. But the fruits of the GOP's labor in violating Constitutional norms to steal a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court may now finally be set to pay off for them for at least the next decade. [Audio link to show is posted at end of article.]
First up today, however, some quick election results following a few contests around the country on Tuesday. In a Special Election for a vacated state Senate seat in Tennessee, Republican Bill Powers reportedly defeated Democrat Juanita Charles. The result wasn't a surprise in a state where the GOP now enjoys a supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly. But Powers is said to have won by just under 10 points. That's a 13-point swing towards the Democrats in a very Republican district from what would normally be expected.
In Tampa, Florida former police Chief Jane Castor was elected by a 73% landslide to become the city's first openly gay Mayor, the first to lead a major city in the U.S. Southeast. The victory comes less than one month after the openly gay Lori Lightfoot was elected Mayor in Chicago. Castor was outspent 2 to 1 by her opponent, David Straz, a 76-year old banker who wasted $5 million of his own money on the race and also outspent the other seven candidates combined in last month's primary.
Back in D.C., the U.S. House General Counsel filed a motion in federal court seeking to block Trump's re-appropriation of some $6 billion from the Defense Department to build his wall on the Southern border. The House --- which voted, along with the Senate, to block Trump's "national emergency" declaration and his re-allocated spending, only to be vetoed by the President --- argues that Trump's actions are unconstitutional as contracts are being awarded and money spent to build and repair border barriers with funding that "Congress did not appropriate for that purpose."
But federal judges who actually believe in following the Constitution may be in shorter supply these days, as Trump and the GOP have packed the courts with "conservatives" of convenience --- jurists who claim to believe in one set of principles but follow a radically different path when it suits their political whims. Trump is counting on such activist judges as he announces his Administration is now blocking all White House and other executive agency officials from responding to lawful document demands and subpoenas issued by Congress. In just the past 24 hours, the Administration has directed several current and former officials to not respond to lawful Congressional subpoenas for testimony and has denied statutory requests for financial documents of Trump and a number of his companies. Trump also, on another Twitter tear today, vowed to seek help from his stolen SCOTUS in the event that he is impeached.
Our guest today, MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter for Slate, offers insight on all of the above, before we focus on the even more disturbing news regarding Tuesday's oral arguments at the Supreme Court regarding the Commerce Department's attempt to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census.
Stern, who was present at the Court for argument on Tuesday, suggests the outlook is not encouraging. He tells me he counted five rightwing Justices who appear eager to overturn three lower court rulings which found Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lied about his reasons for unlawfully directing the Census Bureau to add the question despite objections from career Census professionals who advise that the question would result in a massive under-count of Hispanic and immigrant populations.
The decennial count of all "persons" in the U.S., (as the Constitution requires), may be off by as many 6.5 million people if the question is added, largely in areas that tend to vote Democratic, according to the experts. The result would be felt for the next decade --- particularly in Democratic-leaning cities and states --- as the Census is used to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending, as well as how Congressional and state legislative districts are mapped and residents represented, and even how electoral votes are to be allocated.
"This was just a real bloodbath for the plaintiffs here," Stern tells me about Tuesday's oral argument. "This case should have been so simple. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce lied about his reason for including a citizenship question on the Census. He lied, and he got found out. He is the one who asked the Justice Department to create some pretext for the citizenship question. And beyond that, Ross busted through a bunch of statutory roadblocks that are supposed to prevent the inclusion of gratuitous questions on the Census."
"The lower court in this case said, 'I count Wilbur Ross violating the law in at least six separate ways.' The Supreme Court only has to find one of those ways to be compelling to stop the citizenship question and say no," Stern laments. "But I don't think a majority of the court is willing to step in and stand up for the law. And I fear the reason is because they know exactly why the Trump Administration wants the citizenship question on the Census."
Stern details what he describes as hypocrisy displayed by the Court's five Republican Justices during argument, as they cited everything from the Voting Rights Act (which they voted to gut) to international law (which they have dismissed as having no basis in U.S. law) to deference to federal agencies (which they have famously undermined in recent years when it comes to environmental regulations and other disputes where courts had traditionally deferred to executive agency expertise) in posing questions that indicate they plan to approve the new question meant to rig the Census. "It was a very bad day for truth at the Supreme Court," Stern reports.
"Hypocrisy doesn't even begin to capture what this is," he argues. "I can only hope that Kavanaugh and Gorsuch begin to apply international law in death penalty cases, as well. But something tells me this is a ticket good for one ride only."
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report (after we ran out of time for it yesterday) with another troubling mix of both good news and bad for the nation and the planet...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)