Guest: FSFP's Const'l law expert John Bonifaz with court updates on ballot eligibility challenges to 'insurrectionist' candidates in GA, AZ, NC; Also: Leaked SCOTUS 'Roe' opinion shaking up midterms...
By Brad Friedman on 5/10/2022, 7:00pm PT  

I guess I'll have to keep saying it damn near every day on The BradCast between now and November (and probably for the next two years thereafter, at this rate), but anyone who tells you they know what's gonna happen in his year's elections, is just making it up outta whole cloth. Everything is changing every single day and all of it is going to effect what happens next. [Audio link to full show follows below.]

For example, before we get to our guest today, some quick news on the fallout from the stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court's likely plan to overturn 50 years of freedom for American women's healthcare by overturning the Constitutional right to an abortion established in 1973's Roe v. Wade.

The news has been so alarming to so many that even Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a long time "pro-lifer", now says he plans to vote for the Women's Health Protection Act in the Senate this week to codify abortion rights into federal law. At the same time, new polling taken last week, after the leak of Alito's draft majority opinion that would overturn 'Roe', finds both good and suggestively helpful news for Democratic candidates paying attention.

The poll from Yahoo News/YouGov finds, once again, that a large majority of Americans do not want Roe overturned. More importantly, for democracy itself, voters in the survey support a generic Democratic over a generic Republican on their Congressional ballots by a 5-point margin (44% to 39%). But here's where the polling is really enlightening: "[W]hen voters were asked to choose instead between a 'pro-choice Democrat' and a 'pro-life Republican,' GOP support fell to 31% while Democratic support held steady --- more than doubling the gap between the two candidates, to 13 percentage points."

Got that, Dems?

That's just one of too many wildcards between now and November that make any sort of punditry largely useless. Another one? Well, Donald Trump's former Sec. of Defense Mark Esper was on Fox "News" this week confirming to Brett Baier that, yes, given the events of January 6th, 2021 and some other stuff, he believes "Donald Trump was a threat to democracy." Ouch.

Speaking of the January 6 insurrection and threats to American democracy, we're joined once again today by Constitutional law expert JOHN BONIFAZ, President and co-founder of Free Speech for People (FSFP), the non-profit, non-partisan good governance group helping voters to challenge the eligibility for reelection of elected officials who have "engaged insurrection" in violation of the Constitution's "Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause" (14th Amendment, Section 3).

Bonifaz was with us several weeks ago following the sworn testimony of challenged Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who hedged and/or lied and/or "can't recalled" her way through questioning before an Administrative Law Judge in Atlanta. Greene claimed she couldn't remember whether she suggested that Trump invoke Martial Law (she did), whether she said Nancy Pelosi was "a traitor to the country" (she did, and admitted as much after it was clear that FSFP's attorneys questioning her had the video evidence), or that she even opposed the peaceful transfer of power on January 6th (yup, she did that on video too.)

On Friday, the state Administration Law Judge who oversaw the hearing, Charles Beaudrot, released his decision in the case, recommending that GA's Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger not disqualify Greene from the ballot for lack of evidence from the challengers. But Beaudrot's 19-page decision [PDF] --- and Raffensperger's subsequent rubber stamp [PDF] --- "betrays the fundamental purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause and gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections," said FSFP in response. Bonifaz, today, describes major legal errors that he says must be reversed.

For example, Beaudrot completely ignored the evidence of text messages Greene sent to Trump's then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on invoking Martial Law and Greene's own video on social media declaring, "you can't allow it to just transfer power peacefully, the way Joe Biden wants, and allow him to become our President."

Beaudrot "treats her as a credible witness," in his decision, charges Bonifaz, with "nothing about her as a witness who is not credible on the stand under oath, saying she couldn't remember, couldn't recall more than 80 times. Then you add that to the fact that days after her testimony, the revelation of the text she sent to Mark Meadows, where she did in fact advocate that Trump impose martial law to stay in power."

On top of that, he explains, the Judge also offers yet another reason to appeal. "The Georgia Supreme Court stated that, under Georgia law, 'The entire burden is placed upon the candidate to affirmatively establish their eligibility for office.' That's what the law is. [But] days before this hearing began, [Beaudrot] shifted the standard --- he reversed the burden of proof, and said it was not going to be on the candidate, it was going to be on challengers, contrary to that Supreme Court ruling."

FSFP is appealing the decision on behalf of the voter challengers they represent in GA's 14th Congressional District to Fulton County (Atlanta) Superior Court. "That's going to be before one judge. If we prevail, I'm sure Greene's attorneys will appeal to the state supreme court." Bonifaz says they plan to make every challenge possible through both the primary and general election, if necessary.

"We are not, on our end, giving up in any way," he vows. "The evidence is overwhelming that Marjorie Taylor-Greene engaged in insurrection, that she's disqualified, and our clients want us to proceed --- the voters in her district who are courageous to stand up on this --- they have been done an injustice by Judge Beaudrot."

The Greene case in GA is not the only challenge to alleged insurrectionist candidates for office. FSFP also challenged the eligibility of Rep. Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina, where a federal Appeals Court judge was seemingly stunned last week by his defense attorney's claim at their hearing that, yes, a 12-year old could run for Congress and nobody in the state could challenge that Constitutional deficiency, that it would be solely up to Congress to determine who is eligible to be seated as a member. A ruling from that 3-judge appellate panel is due soon.

And in Arizona, where the indefatigable FSFP is representing voters challenging the candidacies of Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, along with AZ State Rep. Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed Republican running for Sec. of State this year, the state Supreme Court on Monday denied the right for voters to challenge candidates at all based on the Insurrection Disqualification Clause. They determined [PDF] that "no private right of action exists under the United States Constitution or Arizona law" to challenge candidates under the 14th Amendment and that "the Constitution reserves the determination of the qualifications of members of Congress exclusively to the U.S. House of Representatives."

Bonifaz disagrees, but concedes the group is out of court options in the state. However, he explains, the Secretary of State has the final word on ballot eligibility. In this case, that would be Democrat Katie Hobbs, who they've asked to disqualify the candidates. While that might otherwise be encouraging news, it should be noted that Hobbs is also on the ballot this year running for Governor. That could restrict her political options in a matter like this...but we'll see. But credit to FSFP for fighting as hard and as long as possible!

And, yes, Bonifaz tells me, the group intends to bring challenges, on the same Constitutional basis, against Donald Trump if he runs again in 2024. "Absolutely," he vows.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as "unprecedented" wind and heat in New Mexico are fanning out-of-control wildfires across the state, endangering thousands of homes and other structures. Also, wildfires in Russian Siberia are out of control as the military, which usually tensd to them, are otherwise occupied of late fighting Putin's war on Ukraine. But she's got some good news too, about cow burps! That alone may be worth tuning in for!...

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