Guest: Slate legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Computer check-in system causing long Early Voting lines in GA; FBI warns of 'unauthorized access to elections support systems'...
By Brad Friedman on 10/15/2020, 6:33pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It's full speed ahead for Senate Republicans' desperate attempt to further pack the U.S. Supreme Court while they still have the chance. And it's anything but feel speed for voters forced to wait in hours-long Early Voting lines in Georgia. [Audio link to show follows below.]

The Peach State could very well turn "blue" this year, according to Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight, in both the Presidential election and not one, but two U.S. Senate races there this year. But voters will have to work like hell to make that happen. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports today that the state's new voting check-in computers --- needed to operate the state's new unverifiable touchscreen voting machines --- appear to be the main cause of intolerably long lines for voters since Early Voting began on Monday. Some voters have reportedly left without voting, others waited as long as 12 hours to cast their votes. Now that AJC has identified the check-in computers to be a main bottleneck, Georgia's terrible Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger --- who previously attributed the hours-long lines to "voter enthusiasm" --- has apparently told the private software vendor responsible for those check-in computers at Voting Centers to increase network bandwidth to speed up the process. Early reports in Atlanta suggest the expanded bandwidth may be helping to speed things up, but we'll see.

In the meantime, as voters in Georgia must now navigate at least 4 different computer systems (programmed by private companies) to cast their one vote, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the Dept. of Homeland Security, are warning they are aware of "some instances" in which malicious actors (most likely foreign, they suggest) have obtained "unauthorized access to elections support systems." They quickly note, however, they have "no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised." Feel better?

Our guest today, Slate's great legal reporter, MARK JOSEPH STERN, is definitely not feeling better after a week of hearings in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, meant to further pack the Republicans' already-stolen Supreme Court with Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day. The hearings revealed little or nothing about Donald Trump's third far-right nominee to the highest court in the land, Stern reports. "It was a terrible week. It was one of the worst on record," he tells me, describing the proceedings as a "deranged power grab" and the nominee as establishing a new low for such hearings.

"Amy Coney Barrett has established a new rule for Supreme Court confirmations, which is that the nominee doesn't just have to be kind of evasive or squirrelly. The nominee can literally say nothing of substance and simply announce a rule at the outset that she won't say anything of substance, and then just swat down questions that try to get her to say anything meaningful."

Barrett refused to (or couldn't?) answer even simple, non-political questions and matters of basic federal law, such as whether it is illegal to intimidate voters at the polls. (It is.) "I don't understand why we all had to go through this entire experience. It was a psychic wound, it was demeaning to all of us. She won't even say whether this federal law exists, whether it is real," Stern observes. "Will she acknowledge that gravity exists?"

Among the many related points we discuss today...

  • While Barrett allies herself with the great myth of the late Justice Antonin Scalia's so-called "Constitutional originalism," is she in fact "a legal lightweight"?;
  • Do Republicans even care about her "remarkable paucity of experience"? (Stern charges: "I don't think that she's necessarily being picked on the merits of her own scholarship.");
  • If SCOTUS nominees are now going to refuse to answer any question on virtually anything, have these hearings and the Advise and Consent clause itself become little more than a meaningless joke at this point?;
  • Is Barrett's bizarre assertion that Roe v. Wade is not a "super-precedent" --- apparently meaning a ruling that cannot be overturned --- actually a real legal concept in any way, shape or form?;
  • What, if anything, was the impact of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's stunning thirty-minute detailing on Tuesday (video here, transcript here) of the decades-long, $250 million, rightwing dark-money court-packing conspiracy? And did it help Americans appreciate the insidious scam that wealthy rightwingers have been running with the GOP for years now to capture our entire federal judicial system? ("Amy Coney Barrett didn't just magically appear in that seat. She didn't just find herself nominated to the Supreme Court. She has been elevated, propped up, by this massive dark money machine," Stern notes.);
  • Did Democrats do all that they could to highlight the outrage of how Republicans are undermining the very legitimacy of our federal courts, even as Dems have little or no way to stop it right now?;
  • Will Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have the courage to do the right thing for justice and the American people by expanding the Supreme Court to save cherished American rights and the court system itself IF they are able to win the White House and Senate majority this November?;
  • And, why the hell was ranking Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) hugging the Judiciary Committee Chair, Sen. Lindsey Graham (maskless!), at the end of today's final day of hearings?

All of those questions asked and mostly answered on today's lively --- if maddening --- program...

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

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