Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges, Can She Come Home Now?
Here's a small detail that may help illustrate why Russia's detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner is about far more than basketball or the cannabis charges to which she pleaded guilty today. The Reuters story reporting on her guilty plea comes with a disclaimer reading, "This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine." So there's some context for why Griner's trial this week is rather a big deal, internationally.
Griner, a two-time Olympic medalist and star center for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in late February as she tried to return to the US, just days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In May, the US State Department said it considers Griner to have been "wrongly detained," and the US government has been working to get her released. She could face up to 10 years in prison.
As Yr Wonkette noted in May, Russian prisons are terrible for Russians, and probably would be even far more dangerous for Griner, who's Black and gay. The Putin regime has made oppression of gay Russians a priority in its attempts to pander to Putin's nationalist base, and it's worked so great that many Republicans in the US wish they could make America Russia themselves.
CNN reports that in court today, Griner said
she had not intended to commit a crime, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Speaking through an interpreter, Griner said she had not meant to carry drugs in her luggage, but that it was the result of her packing in a hurry, the report said.
Griner left the courtroom without giving any comment to reporters, and her next hearing is set for July 14.
Reuters adds that Griner said, "I'd like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," speaking in English, which was then translated into Russian.
She also said that she would "like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare," which will probably happen at that next hearing.
On Monday, Reuters reported that Griner had sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking for his help in securing her release from Russia.
"As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I'm terrified I might be here forever," she wrote in a letter, excerpts of which have been shared by her representatives.
"On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran.
"It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year."
Griner noted that the 2020 election was her first time voting, and that she'd voted for Biden; and asked him to keep her and other Americans detained by Russia in his thoughts.
I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.
Yesterday, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone with Griner's wife, Cherelle, according to a White House statement, and let her know that they're working to free Griner and other US detainees. In her own statement, Cherelle expressed gratitude and said
While I will remain concerned and outspoken until she is back home, I am hopeful in knowing that the President read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond. I know BG will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.
The Washington Post reports that at Griner's hearing today, Elizabeth Rood, the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, handed Griner a letter from Biden and told reporters that Griner was doing well, at least under the circumstances, and that she had access to books in English.
The diplomatic wrangling over Griner and a possible prisoner exchange to release her continue; before her hearing, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov grumbled that the US government and media weren't helping Griner's hopes for release, telling journalists,
The American side’s attempts to foment hype and make noise in the public environment are understandable, but they don’t help to practically resolve issues.
So that sounds Russian as all get-out, although Rybakov also said once the trial was over and a verdict announced, then Russia would be willing to talk more, because
"we have a long-established form for discussing these matters."
“Clearly the necessary judicial procedures have not been completed. Until then, there is no nominal, formal, procedural basis for any further steps at all,” Ryabkov said.
Here's hoping that Ms. Griner makes it home soon and that she and her wife can be reunited. We haven't really seen any expert opinion on whether the guilty plea will improve her chances of release, and we sure hope her attorneys know what they're doing.
[CNN / Reuters / WaPo / Reuters / NPR]
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Kamala Harris Keeps Beating Ron DeSantis In Polls. Why Don't We Hear More About That?
It's a mystery!
While we keep hearing a lot about how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is supposed to be the anointed GOP candidate in 2024 if Donald Trump doesn't run, or is (ahem) otherwise occupied, like if he's throwing trays of prison food at the walls (don't get your hopes up), we aren't yet seeing much speculation about the Democratic ticket. That's mostly because it seems pretty likely Joe Biden will run for reelection. But if he chooses not to, polling has already pretty consistently shown Vice President Kamala Harris doing especially well against DeSantis. A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll even shows her running about even with Trump, with both Harris and Trump getting 41 percent.
Yes, this is where we remind you that, four months before this year's midterms, it seems pretty daft to be talking about polling for the 2024 presidential race, and any numbers out there represent vague impressions, not an outline for what's coming. Heck, by the time the 2024 primaries are supposed to start, America may already be under martial law after Canadian peacekeepers march in to save us from ourselves.
Again, don't get your hopes up.
But for all his general We Don't Listen To Joe Scarborough Ever-ness, MSNBC Morning Zoo deejay Joe Scarborough made a pretty good point on the Twitters: Harris keeps beating DeSantis in early polling, so where's the big profile about her bright prospects?
DeSantis sneezes and he’s framed as the rising star of politics. And yet the Great White Hope STILL loses is every head-to-head matchup with Harris. The VP also draws even with Trump.
To be sure, Scarborough links to polling from May, but the more recent polling shows similar results: Yes, DeSantis wins a Trumpless field, but generally not with overwhelming support. And up against Harris, or against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who ran some dandy DeSantis-kicking ads in Florida — on Fox — DeSantis hardly looks like a juggernaut, a dreadnought, or even an Ugnaught for '24.
The Yahoo/YouGov poll
found Biden leading Trump 42% to 40% and DeSantis 41% to 37%. It found Harris tied with Trump 41% to 41%, but matched Biden's margin against DeSantis at 41% to 37%.
Newsom did just a touch better than Harris — or not better at all, considering margins of error — edging Trump 40 percent to 39 percent, and beating DeSantis 39 percent to 36 percent, although in a hypothetical Newsom-DeSantis matchup, the undecideds are a whopping 25 percent, leading many respondents to ask where they could get more information on this Undecided person, who really resonated with their concerns.
Here, have a little data visualization of that rundown, also too:
So while it may be a little early to be placing bets on the 2024 election, those are some encouraging numbers, isn't that nice? Also, it's probably not too early to be making plans to escape to a saner country in late 2024 or early 2025, just in case.
[Florida Politics / SFGate / Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License 2.0]
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Mike Pence: The Most Reluctant Of Heroes
This fuckin' guy.
We will never forgive Donald Trump for ... everything.
But one of those everythings is the way he made us feel grateful to otherwise reprehensible characters like Liz Cheney, Joe Walsh, and Rick Wilson. If we wanted to get in bed with Bill Kristol, we'd have become Republicans! But then Republicans lost their goddamn minds, and so we find ourselves saying things like "That George Conway makes a damn good point!" Or, today, "Thank goodness for Mike Pence!"
Mike Freakin' Pence!
Maggie Haberman got the scoop at the New York Times, as she is wont to do. Apparently, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short notified the Secret Service on January 5, 2021, that the vice president was in danger, and that the threat was coming direct from the Oval Office.
Mr. Short did not know what form such a security risk might take, according to people familiar with the events. But after days of intensifying pressure from Mr. Trump on Mr. Pence to take the extraordinary step of intervening in the certification of the Electoral College count to forestall Mr. Trump’s defeat, Mr. Short seemed to have good reason for concern. The vice president’s refusal to go along was exploding into an open and bitter breach between the two men at a time when the president was stoking the fury of his supporters who were streaming into Washington.
The warning to Tim Giebels, the head of Pence's security team, came on the eve of the ceremonial certification of the Electoral College, as thousands of deranged Trump supporters were flooding into DC. Hopped up on lies about a stolen election and Pence's ability to unilaterally overturn it, the potential for violence was eminently clear to many people in Trumpland the day before the Capitol riot. Indeed, Mark Meadows's aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the January 6 Committee that her boss received a similar warning on the same day.
Haberman's article details the months immediately after the campaign as Trump's legal team cast around for means to overturn the electoral results. It was, unsurprisingly, a dangerous — and yet totally hilarious! — shitshow. For instance, Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona GOP and a total wackaloon, tried to get Pence to meet with Kraken lawyer Sidney Powell between Christmas and New Years. Pence refused, but not because Powell was a total nutjob who was going around insisting that dead Hugo Chávez had stolen the election for Biden. No, Pence was worried that it was a ruse to serve him with papers in Louie Gohmert's batguano lawsuit seeking to block his ability certify electors.
As things got ever more tense between Pence and Trump, the vice president reached out to Jared Kushner to mediate. But Kush said he was far too busy doing Middle East stuff to get involved in the peaceful transition of power. Oh, hey, didn't that asshole incorporate his hedge fund on January 21, 2021, and then get $2 billion from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund? Ah, well, priorities!
Meanwhile, Pence was getting spammed with "legal memos" telling him to just do it and be legends, by everyone from constitutional traffic lawyer Jenna Ellis to "Hot Johnny McEntee," the president's body man who became head of the Presidential Personnel Office and got Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired. The heaviest hitter was now-former law professor John Eastman, who said if Pence wasn't willing to toss out swing state electoral votes completely, he could always say the results were fishy and order a 10-day review — conveniently giving Republican-dominated legislatures the time and pretext to claw back the Biden electors and substitute the cosplay Trump ones.
Throughout the whole thing, Trump was blocking transition funding in order to keep Pence from doing his damn job and preparing to hand the reins over to incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. Pence, being Pence, refused to say one way or the other what he planned to do, saying his staff was investigating the issue, leaving the impression he might be persuaded to participate in Trump's and Eastman's electoral coup. By January 6, when Pence finally nutted up enough to say out loud that he wasn't going to do it, things had deteriorated to such an extent that he released his memo saying he had no authority to overturn the Electoral College results without even giving the White House a heads up.
After all that insanity, Pence spent an entire year after leaving office singing Trump's praises and angling to get his spot back on a 2024 Trump presidential ticket. Because he's a weak, tiny, craven little man.
But still, when the chips were down, he actually stood up for democracy and refused to mount a coup. So, slow clap for Mike Pence, the very reluctant hero of the day. And maybe a slightly faster clap for the Secret Service, which failed to give the Capitol Police a heads up about the impending violence, but does seem to have persuaded Trump not to accompany the rioters as they assaulted the Capitol by telling the old man they could not protect him in the crowd.
And if that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, God only knows what the January 6 Committee is going to reveal on Thursday when it holds the first public report on its investigation. Be there, should be wild.
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Kamala Harris Shouting 'HOW DARE THEY!' Is Exactly What America Needs Right Now
The vice president spoke at Emily's List last night, and good golly it was powerful.
President Joe Biden may not always be the greatest at saying the word "abortion" out loud, but oh boy, Vice President Kamala Harris does not have that issue.
She was already scheduled to speak to Emily's List last night, but in light of this week's news, the address she gave took on added urgency.
If anybody is wondering what maybe the Biden administration ought to be doing when it comes to the midterms, the fight to preserve abortion access, or to help Americans get a true idea of who the vice president is — one that rises above the din of roaring racist bullshit people like Tucker Carlson are injecting into the discourse — we humbly suggest that letting Veep Harris walk on to national stages on a regular basis and shout "How DARE they!" would be a good start.
People's anger has just been activated in a way the country's Christian fascist trash could never have imagined. That needs to be channeled in productive ways, and this speech showed that the vice president is ready to do that.
It started with a laugh, though. Just as Harris had begun to say how Roe v. Wade had protected women's rights, there was some big huge crashing sound. She immediately smirked and said, "Yeah, it's powerful!" like the thundering sound had been made by Roe itself.
But then she got real serious. "If the Court overturns Roe v. Wade, it will be a direct assault on freedom, on the fundamental right of self-determination to which all Americans are entitled." She continued:
Roe protects the right to access abortion. It also protects a woman's right to make decisions about what she does with her own body. [...]
We have been on the front lines of this fight for many years, all of us in this together. And now we enter a new phase. There is nothing hypothetical about this moment.
Speaking directly to the Emily's List audience, she emphasized the importance of electing pro-choice Democrats, and many more of them. (If you want a way to do that, look into the primary race in Texas between incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, the only Democrat who voted with Republicans against enshrining Roe into federal law, and Jessica Cisneros, who is pretty sure the time is damn well past for that fuckin' garbage.)
Harris noted that in the event of Roe's demise, in almost half the country people will lose abortion rights entirely or have them severely curtailed, and that in 13 states it will happen immediately. And then she started saying HOW DARE THEY, HOW VERY DARE THEY:
Those Republican leaders that are trying to weaponize the use of the law against women — well we say HOW DARE THEY? HOW DARE THEY tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body? HOW DARE THEY! HOW DARE THEY try to stop her from determining her own future? HOW DARE THEY try to deny women their rights and their freedoms?
It was good, it was real good.
Harris got a grin on her face as she remembered being on the Senate Judiciary Committee and asking Mr. Stranger Danger himself, Brett Kavanaugh, if there were any laws that specifically regulated the male body. He was, of course, stumped.
And then she got real specific about what kind of precedent it sets for the Court to suddenly decide, as Alito obviously has, that people don't deserve a right to privacy. “Think about that for a minute," Harris said. "When the right to privacy is attacked, anyone in our country may face a future where the government can interfere in their personal decisions. Not just women; anyone.”
And Harris was very clear about what's at stake here if this troupe of unqualified and unelected liars in robes is allowed to have its sneering decisions about Americans' personal fucking lives stand:
And it has never been more clear which party wants to expand our rights, and which party wants to restrict them. It has never been more clear. It has never been more clear which party wants to lead us forward and which party wants to push us back. You know, some Republican leaders, they want to take us back to a time before Roe v. Wade. Back to a time before Obergefell v. Hodges. Back to a time before Griswold v. Connecticut.
But we are not going back. We are not going back.
Roe is just the beginning. People need to hear that every day between now and the midterms.
So yeah, Harris is the right voice on this, and we hope to see her more. Even Politico Playbook noticed it this morning.
And the American people are with her. Americans love legal abortion. Americans do not love Christian fascists, and the fascists know it. They wouldn't have worked so hard to steal the Court so that vicious religious ideologues like Sam Alito could shit on paper and thereby force the majority of the country to submit if they thought the American people would ever want to be on their side.
So yes, more like this please, as they say on the worldwide web. More like this, please.
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