On today's BradCast, Trump-induced chaos continues to worsen, from China to the U.S. Congress, and the fights over 2018 and 2019 elections continue in Georgia and North Carolina, while a court ruling in Florida will make things a bit easier for voters in 2020. [Audio link to show follows below.]
First up today, Donald Trump sends world markets --- including the Dow, which dropped more than 600 points on Monday --- plummeting, after China announces plans to respond to Trump's newest 25% tariff on $200 billion in Chinese goods on Friday. Today China announced they plan to institute retaliatory tariffs on some $60 billion in U.S. exports and may cut off sales from certain companies entirely. So, Americans are left paying exorbitant new import taxes (tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the U.S. are taxes paid by U.S. companies and consumers, they are NOT paid by China, as Trump keeps falsely asserting), and now financial markets are taking an additional hit. Experts worry the dispute could soon nudge the economy into recession if a trade deal is not brokered. Trump has since threatened to add new taxes on all goods made in China if they refuse to kowtow to his demands.
At the same time as Trump is playing out his ill-considered foreign trade war, he is also expanding his domestic war against Constitutionally-mandated oversight by the Legislative Branch. A weekend analysis by the Washington Post finds Trump and his allies are now blocking more than 20 separate Congressional investigations "into his actions as president, his personal finances and his administration's policies" in what experts --- and even former Republican Congress members and legal staffers --- cite as a deepening crisis of unprecedented proportions between the two co-equal branches.
From Florida, however, we have a bit of good news from a federal court, where a judge has ruled that the state must follow the Voting Rights Act by supplying election materials and assistance for Spanish-speaking voters in advance of the 2020 primaries. The ruling is key for the tens of thousands of new Spanish-speaking Florida voters who moved to the Sunshine State from Puerto Rico following the devastation of 2017's Hurricane Maria.
In North Carolina on Tuesday, Republicans voters in the state's 9th Congressional District will select their nominee to run against Democrat Dan McCready in a do-over general election scheduled for this fall, after the state refused to certify a winner from last November's contest following the revelation that the Republican candidate (and Baptist minister), Mark Harris, was found to have hired a GOP contractor who carried out a massive absentee ballot fraud scheme on his behalf. In February, after some remarkable testimony, the state scheduled a new election. Tuesday's GOP primary in NC promises to be a bit of a circus with 10 --- um, colorful --- Republicans running for the nod. If none of receive more than 30% of the vote, there will be a runoff in September, with the general election then pushed back to November. The U.S. House seat in NC-9 will remain vacant until then, as 2018's last undecided election is finally completed near the end of 2019.
In Georgia, meanwhile, results from a 2018 race are still being challenged in court, after more than 125,000 votes cast in last November's race for Lt. Governor appeared inexplicably "missing". The unusually large undervote rate in that contest does not appear in any others races, including statewide elections much farther down the ballot (eg. Sec. of State, Insurance Commissioner, etc.)
Moreover, the missing votes only appear to have occurred on ballots cast at the polling place, where voters are forcced to use GA's 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems. Hand-marked absentee paper ballots revealed no similar drop-off in voting rates for Lt. Governor and, according to our guest today, plaintiff MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, the unusually large residual vote rate was also inexplicably highest in predominately African-American precincts.
"It wasn't just our speculation that something went wrong with the machines," Marks tells me. "We had the premiere election statisticians in the United States look at this, and they basically said it would be a one-in-ten thousand chance that something wasn't happening in the machines that would have caused this kind of result."
Last January, as the Coalition sought a forensic analysis of the state's voting systems and other materials needed to carry out their lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the Lt. Governor election, they were blocked by the state. Leading that fight was Republican Gov. Brian Kemp who is said to have narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams last year on the same day, in a race where then-Sec. of State Kemp oversaw his own election and was found by several court challenges to have been suppressing the vote in predominately African-American areas. Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court heard the plaintiffs' appeal in the case, after a lower state court judge dismissed it --- without even allowing discovery --- earlier this year. Marks and the other plaintiffs seek to have the lower court's ruling by Senior Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs reversed, so they may proceed with discovery, including forensic analysis by cybersecurity and voting systems experts, and a full trial.
"The dynamics of [the lower court] trial were extremely strange," she explains. "We told the Supreme Court several times that during the trial, when we were begging for discovery, begging for a jury trial, begging for a continuance because they had been blocking everything we were doing, the judge said, 'Look, I'm getting pressure to get this resolved. So, no --- you cannot have the documents, you can't have a continuance, and you can't have a jury trial.'
"Getting pressure"? From whom? "We don't know. She didn't disclose that," Marks says, "but that alone is reason to reverse her."
Marks joins us to detail how things went at the high court last week, and for an update on Kemp's new effort to move the voting systems in Georgia from its current 100% unverifiable Diebold touchscreen system, installed in 2002, to an all-new 100% unverifiable touchscreen system that prints equally unverifiable computer-marked paper ballot summary cards. On that front, Marks has been loudly opposing the move --- advocating instead ofr hand-marked paper ballots --- and offers some interesting news as well...
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