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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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