Guest: Slate legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern on recent cases, Bill Barr, Kris Kobach and accountability for TX' attempt to overturn the election; Also: GOP now eating its own with GA's U.S. Senate runoffs underway...
By Brad Friedman on 12/15/2020, 7:54pm PT  

On today's BradCast: While the GOP's packed and stolen 6 to 3 U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing last Friday in unanimously rejecting [PDF] indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's attempt to steal the 2020 election (and receive a Presidential Pardon for his thanks), there remains the question of accountability for those who signed on to the frivolous and arguably "seditious" attempt to undermine democracy. Especially from the 19 wingnut state Attorneys General who should both have known better and, according to our guest today, have a legal obligation to do so. In the meantime, SCOTUS made a couple of other rulings this week that have received far less notice, but that are also surprisingly good, given the Court's radical, far-right majority. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

But first up today, a few quick observations on the Republican Party that now seems to be eating itself alive in the wake of Trump's loss. On yesterday's BradCast we noted the weekend MAGA Mob rally in D.C., where angry brain-poisoned Trump supporters broke into chants of "Destroy the GOP!" before booing Georgia's incumbent Republican U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue who are facing tough runoffs against Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff for contests that will determine control of the U.S. Senate on January 5.

Today, sore loser Donald Trump, who has been attacking Georgia's extremely Trumpy Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger for weeks in order to (absurdly) blame them, instead of himself, for losing the election in the state, upped the stakes considerably. He retweeted a message from a mentally unbalanced Georgia attorney and conspiracy theorist calling for Kemp and Raffensperger to be jailed. The post also includes Photoshopped graphics of Kemp and Raffensperger --- both of whom are Trump supporters that have faced death threats since Trump turned on them --- wearing masks with Chinese flags on them.

But, hey, at least Mitch McConnell finally recognized the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris today, after Monday's Electoral College vote confirmed their "landslide" victory. Also, one "courageous" and very rightwing House Republican, on Monday, decided he has finally had enough of his colleagues' attacks on democracy itself and has announced he is officially becoming an "independent"...now that he'll be leaving Congress at the end of the year anyway.

Then its on to a number of not horrible things done over the past several days by the U.S. Supreme Court, as we are delighted to be joined once again by one of our very favorite legal reporters, MARK JOSEPH STERN of Slate.

On Monday, SCOTUS rejected an appeal by the state of Indiana in a years-long case brought by a number of married lesbian couples regarding marriage rights. The couples all had children using artificial insemination, but Indiana law had forced the spouses of the women who gave birth to go through onerous, expensive adoption procedures in order to become a legal parent. There is no such requirement for men in opposite-sex marriages to do so in similar situations. Happily, the Court dismissed Indiana's challenge to lower courts which found the state's law unconstitutional, in what might have been the first chance to roll back marriage equality protections since Amy Coney Barrett was rammed onto the Court.

Also on Monday, SCOTUS put a merciful end, once and for all, to the voter suppression law written by disgraced former Kansas Sec. of State and GOP "voter fraud" fraudster Kris Kobach requiring proof of citizenship papers when registering to vote in the state. The 2013 law would have disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal Kansas voters and was found unconstitutional by court after court. The SCOTUS decision to not hear the case finally makes Kobach's unnecessary law a dead letter, though Stern says he believes it's likely to pop up again in similar forms from other states, given the radical, anti-voter, anti-immigrant, anti-democracy fever running rampant right now in the GOP.

In addition to a eulogy, of sorts, for the pathetic "clownish" legacy of Kansas' failed former Sec. of State, failed gubernatorial candidate and failed Senatorial candidate, Kobach --- who is also now mixed up with an anti-immigrant "Build the Wall" group facing fraud charges with Steve Bannon --- Stern unloads with another eulogy for the legacy of another similarly disgraced rightwinger today, U.S. Attorney General and Trump fixer Bill Barr. Trump tweeted on Monday that Barr would be leaving DoJ just weeks before the one-term President leaves office, after Barr had the temerity to admit that there is no known evidence of mass voter fraud that stole the election for Biden.

Barr, Stern argues, is "more offensive, terrifying and obnoxious" than Trump himself, because he is "
a creature of the Republican Establishment, a creature of the conservative legal movement. Bill Barr is at the heart of it." He believes "Barr did immense damage to the rule of law" and "may have permanently hobbled the Justice Department's integrity and legitimacy." That's just part of Stern's invective for Barr, who he describes as "just an awful person, and I wish him nothing but bad luck for the rest of his life."

Finally, we dig into the mess surrounding the shameless attempt to win a Presidential Pardon by TX Attorney General Paxton, who, as he filed his suit last week, was also subpoenaed by the FBI in a bribery and abuse of power investigation by the FBI. His lawsuit [PDF] filed with SCOTUS on behalf of Texas, sought to nullify all of the votes --- some 20 million of them --- in four different states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia) in a fruitless attempt to steal the election for Trump. We've got lots to discuss on this today. The radical legal concept at the center of Paxton's case (and several others which similarly failed over the past month) would nullify all election laws, rules and regulations not expressly enacted by state legislatures and ONLY state legislatures. In addition to turning centuries of American democracy and voting rights on its head, this literal, radical, ill-considered, "textualist " or "originalist" reading of the Constitution's Elections Clause --- arguing that Governors, Secretaries of State and even state courts may have no say at all over election rules --- would have broad ramifications for all sorts of other laws. For example, as we discuss, if Governors may no longer veto State Legislatures regarding election laws, does that mean a President may not veto Congress on tax laws, given they are granted the power of taxation in the Constitution by a similarly literal reading?

While SCOTUS rejected Paxton's case on jurisdictional grounds Friday night, many of the failed cases brought by Team Trump hoping to overturn the election results over the past month similarly relied on that radical theory. They were tossed before that question could be answered by the courts, however. So, will Republicans continue to push for a SCOTUS opinion on this matter from the high court in the months and years ahead? Stern believes that, before Amy Coney Barrett was added to the Court, there were at least four Justices who had signaled willingness to support the radical theory.

Should Texas' election results also be thrown out under Paxton's theory, given that its Governor Greg Abbott, without legislative approval, limited mail-in dropboxes to just one per county for November? How about Alabama's results, where its Republican Sec. of State John Merrill decreed curbside voting to be unlawful in a case which was met with approval by SCOTUS earlier this year?

Also, what of the 18 state Attorneys General who signed on to Paxton's cuckoo complaint, who are members of the bar and officers of the court with a duty to not bringing frivolous, much less arguably "seditious" (as Pennsylvania's defendant AG described it) lawsuits. Should they be punished in some way? Can they be sanctioned for their actions? And, as one caller asked during yesterday's show, should all of these repeated attempts filed by Republicans in hopes of overturning a legitimate Presidential election be regarded as "treasonous"? (My answer yesterday was "no", but does Stern agree?)

All of that and much more on today's very lively --- and, hopefully, informative --- BradCast!...

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