Your Mini-Constitutional Crisis Update!
When we last checked in with the United States most
ignored favorite colony, Puerto Rico had just forced their governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to announce his resignation effective August 2 after weeks of intense protests. The protests were sparked by years of corruption and 889 pages of leaked chats involving the governor, secretary of state, and other top officials. This forced many in the administration to resign and, after a disastrous Fox News interview, Rosselló soon joined them. But this was not a tidy happy ending.
Because the secretary of state (second in line for the governorship) resigned prior to Rosselló, there was no clear answer who was next in the line of succession. By Article IV of the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced would have been the next governor until the 2020 elections. But amid protests due to various scandals and controversies outlined by the New York Times (and probably not wanting to be in charge in a shitshow), Ms. Vázquez Garced announced she didn't want the job.
With the deadline bearing down, Rosselló announced July 31 that he had chosen
Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia as the new secretary of state to fill the vacancy left by Luis G. Rivera Marín. This effectively made him the next in line and successor as governor, so crisis averted! Just kidding.
WHOA, gutting the Voting Rights Act meant millions lost the vote? Who could have guessed?
The Brennan Center for Justice, using data from the federal government, found that since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the number of Americans purged from voter rolls has increased to are you kidding me levels of 17 million people. Worse, states that had a history of discrimination against minority voters purged a greater percentage of voters in the last two years than in other parts of the country.
Before that 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required jurisdictions that had a history of voting discrimination to get clearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to voting procedures. But in Shelby, the Supremes decided racism was largely a thing of the past, so such "preclearance" was clearly not needed anymore, and actually was very unfair to places that used to use underhanded tactics to rig the vote. After all, Republicans all over the country were emailing each other pictures of the White House surrounded by watermelon patches, not just in the South!
This guy again!
We will never be rid of Scott Walker. Wisconsin voters finally gave him the boot, but he's like a case of drug-resistant gonorrhea, never really gone. This time he's reared his little pinhead in Michigan to fight the scourge of voter-approved bipartisan redistricting commissions, which infringe on the sacred First Amendment right of Republicans to ratfuck themselves into permanent majorities forever. This tyrannical exclusion of politicians and party officials from the redistricting process based on the will of 61 percent of Michigan voters will not stand, man! Not if Scott Walker has anything to say about it!
Last November, Michigan voters approved a state constitutional amendment removing the redistricting process from the wildly gerrymandered legislature and putting it in the hands of a 13-member commission composed of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters. Commissioners will be randomly selected from a pool of applicants, using "accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the pools, as closely as possible, mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state," and the majority and minority leaders of both houses of the Michigan legislature will each be allowed to strike five applicants from the pool. Politicians, party officials, lobbyists, and their families are ineligible for positions on the commission, which pay about $40,000 per year.
Which all sounds pretty fair, right?
But lower-level Republican Party officials are howling like stuck pigs that the state is illegally discriminating against them and penalizing them for exercising their First Amendment right to affiliate with a political party and hold state office. Scott Walker's group The National Republican Redistricting Trust and its affiliate Fair Lines America (George Orwell would be proud!) are backing a consortium of GOP hacks in their lawsuit asking the US District Court in Grand Rapids to declare the entire law unconstitutional and return mapmaking power to the Republican-controlled legislature as White Jesus intended.
Here komes Kris Kobach's klown kar!
Welcome to Kansas's US Senate race, Chris ... errr, Kris Kobach! Godspeed, you crazy, immigrant-bashing dumpster fire. Your Wonkette has not lived a good enough life for this guy to throw another race to the Democrats. But if he wants to be a throbbing hemorrhoid in Mitch McConnell's ass, we're good with it!
Yesterday Kris Kobach made it official, declaring his candidacy to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Roberts in 2020. His crack team kicked off the proceedings by misspelling his name on the FEC filing.
Why, yes, "false, erroneous, or incomplete information" on this form may subject the filer to civil penalties. But Kobach, who fought to purge voters for similar typos on their registration forms, shrugged it off, telling the Kansas City Star, "We had a whole bunch of people helping over the past week and I don't even know who was the person that transcribed it. It's not the first time Kris has been misspelled in my case with a CH rather than a K ... They quickly corrected their typo, I'm told."
Sure his losing 2018 gubernatorial campaign in a state where Republicans outnumber Democrats two-to-one was a shitshow with lackluster fundraising and pathetic GOTV, but this time is different. This time they "quickly corrected" the misspelling of the candidate's own name. So you know they're at the top of their game!
How bad is the gerrymandering decision? It's really, really bad.
I got no jokes, people. This is a very bad day for democracy. We lost Rucho v. Common Cause, the gerrymandering case, in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts giving Republican legislatures a thumbs up to ratfuck electoral maps forever. Reasoning that the Framers anticipated gerrymanders and failed to do anything about them, Roberts calls congressional districts a political question outside the purview of the courts.
Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust. But the fact that such gerrymandering is "incompatible with democratic principles," Arizona State Legislature, 576 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 1), does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary. We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.
It's a darn shame that Republican minorities use maps to systematically entrench themselves in power despite the fact that they consistently get fewer votes than Democrats. Roberts really feels for people trapped in districts where their votes don't count, but dangitall, the Court's hands are tied.
Okay, now we know how this is going to go down.
In April, Donald Trump stood on the White House lawn and told reporters, "We're fighting all the subpoenas." This admission that the Trump administration is fighting just to fight, rather than based on the validity of any particular congressional inquiry, was distinctly unhelpful to Attorney General Bill Barr, whose job requires him to swear that he's defending the sacred privacy of the executive branch, rather than a petulant dotard who thinks he's America's god king. No one ever accused Trump of being a longterm, strategic thinker.
But Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have a job obstructing Congress, so they got down to it. We're now well into the second round of this nonsense, and the parties' tactics are becoming more clear. Basically, it's going down like this:
- Congress demands information on White House fuckery -- the Census, or the Mueller Report, or how the hell Jared Kushner got a security clearance, etc.
- The White House tells them to go piss up a rope.
- Congress subpoenas the information.
- The White House says congressional oversight is ILLEGAL and defies the subpoena.
- The relevant House committee schedules a committee vote on criminal and civil contempt citations.
- The White House threatens to invoke executive privilege over every piece of paper in the federal government if the contempt motions against Bill Barr aren't withdrawn, although they don't give a damn if Don McGahn, Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, or anyone else goes to jail.
- The committee votes to bring civil and criminal contempt charges to the full House for a vote.
- The White House disgorges some portion of the disputed material and promises to keep negotiating, and the committee chair withdraws the criminal contempt motion, sparing Barr the prospect of being prosecuted by a future AG for criminal contempt.
- The civil contempt motion proceeds to a vote in the full House, where it passes on party lines.
Step 10 is probably litigation to enforce the subpoena and allow the court to find Barr in contempt of court, but we just got to Step 9 yesterday, when the House passed a bill authorizing Judiciary Committee Chair Nadler to sue McGahn and Barr to get them to comply with committee subpoenas and allowing the committee to petition a court to give them an unredacted copy of the Mueller Report. Nadler says he'll hold off on suing Barr immediately, to see if he actually forks over the documents on Trump's cough, cough alleged obstruction of justice, or if he tries to claw it all back with Steve Bannon's Hot Tub Time Machine Executive Privilege Defense. But Nadler is coming for McGahn TOOT SWEET, and Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson should also expect a visit from their friendly neighborhood process server, since the bill authorizes the committee chair to git his sue on with them, too.
Meanwhile, over at the House Oversight Committee, Chairman Cummings is on Step 7 in the fight to get Census documents from the White House. Trumpland is extra-sensitive about this at the moment, since the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to accept Wilbur Ross's laughable assertion that they added the citizenship question to protect the rights of minority voters, rather than entrench Republicans in power forever. Ross and his deputies appear to have lied to Congress, and they'd very much prefer not to hand over evidence of that, thankyouverymuch.
So, last night Barr's deputy Stephen Boyd sent a letter -- you want snitty, Steve will show you snitty! -- whining that mean Elijah Cummings never negotiates with the DOJ and threatening to have Donald Trump throw a blanket of executive privilege over the entirety of the Census if Cummings went ahead with the contempt vote against Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Just to make this extra clear, the Justice Department is threatening to make a sham invocation of executive privilege as a weapon to protect Barr and Ross personally and to "reevaluate its current production efforts in ongoing matters," an unsubtle threat to shut down document production entirely based on events that have nothing to do with Congress's right to see the disputed materials.
Cummings responded with a HAHA FUCK YOU letter saying, "The Committee has a responsibility under the Constitution to conduct rigorous oversight of the Census, and we will not delay our efforts due to your ongoing obstruction." So Oversight went ahead with the contempt vote this morning, and the DOJ invoked some non-existent, bullshit version of executive privilege over the Census documents. As we type, the committee hearing is ongoing, but there are 18 Republican Oversight members and 24 Democrats so ... not exactly a nailbiter. Then they'll schedule a contempt vote before the entire House, as Nadler did with the Judiciary Committee.
Look for Bill Barr to have a miraculous change of heart about document production when Cummings withdraws the criminal contempt charge. But John Gore, the Census department employee who defied a congressional subpoena to testify without a department lawyer present to protect Trump's "executive privilege interests," and Carl Kline, the official who overrode career agents to grant Javanka's security clearances and defied a subpoena to tell Rep. Cummings about it, might want to start saving their pennies. Particularly since yesterday's bill empowered Cummings to start suing immediately.
This map leads directly to the federal courthouse in DC. And it's not likely to go well there for the Trumpers.
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The Mapf*cker's Revenge.
Okay, POP QUIZ! Ready?
If documentary evidence emerges to prove that your client lied to the court, should you:
A. Attempt to amend your testimony and throw yourself on the mercy of the court?
B. Loudly insist that those documents are PRIVILEGED and accuse your opponent of professional misconduct?
Pencils down! If you are a sane person, the answer is A. But if you and your clients are Republicans, the answer is B, any day of the week and twice on Sundays. And so we find ourselves in yet another day of legal batshittery in the Trump era. TGIF!
Don't believe your lying eyes.
It was just last week that Texas's Secretary of State, David Whitley, had to resign because he couldn't get confirmed by the state Senate. Democrats wouldn't vote to confirm Whitley because he'd led that stupid attempt to purge nearly 100,000 Texans from voter rolls for having illegally registered to vote. Except, OOPS, at least a quarter, probably many more, were actually legitimate votes incorrectly flagged because the methodology was bullshit.
And now, emails obtained through a public records request appear to show that Whitley, who was appointed to the post by Gov. Greg Abbott in December 2018, wasn't even the originator of the failed purge. Instead, two officials at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) identified Abbott's office as pushing for the project months before Whitley was appointed. Abbott's office denies it, which is hardly surprising since Abbott has already tried to pin the failed voter purge on the DPS providing bad data to the Secretary of State's office.
Funny how stories of vote suppression fuckery just keep getting uglier and uglier, isn't it?
Goodbye, asshole! Hope we never hear from you again! Goodbye!
David Whitley, the jerkwad who served as Texas's secretary of state for less than six months and tried to purge nearly 100,000 people from the state's voter rolls using seriously screwy data, has resigned. Texas has this weird thing where the secretary of state can have the job as soon as the governor appoints 'em, but if they're not confirmed by the end of the legislative session, they have to step down. Since the confirmation required a 2/3 majority in the state Senate, and all 12 Democrats in the chamber opposed Whitley over the purge nonsense, he had to vamoose. Bye, asshole! Bye!
A day late and no dollars short, it's the Sunday Show Rundown!
Today we bring you the idiotic punditry from the last guy rocking a Caesar cut and a Stone Cold Steve Austin goatee combo on national TV, Chuck Todd. It was merely five minutes into NBC's "Meet The Press" when Todd decided to use some revisionist history to do what he does best: "Both Sides" the shit out the news. Watch the clip blow and let's break this nonsense down.
Driving people to the polls is fraud? Sure why not.
Just wanted to check in with you all to remind you that the Texas Senate passed a really awful voter-suppression bill last month, since as you may have noticed, the whole thing blew up on Twitter all over again yesterday. As far as we can tell, there's not any new news about the bill, introduced by rightwing fartsack state Sen. Bryan Hughes, but we are very glad to see it getting renewed attention. Maybe even enough attention to make its passage in the Texas House a little less likely. No telling -- Texas Republicans have never liked voting, especially if poors or browns do it. And since the Texas secretary of state's attempt at a big voter purge failed in March, Hughes's Senate Bill 9 seems like the best shot for the Rs to take another swing at the ol' voter suppression piñata.
'How about if we just send all Democrats to jail?'
Just a little more than a month after a federal judge told Texas not to try purging its voter rolls of suspiciously brown people based on very bad drivers license data, the state Senate is back with a whole NEW load of voter-suppressing fuckery, once again in the name of fighting "voter fraud," which is exceedingly rare to start with. This time the vehicle for reducing turnout is a steaming pile called Senate Bill 9, which passed Monday and will now head to the state House. SB 9 will treat submitting "false information" on a voter registration form as a "state jail felony," even if the incorrect information is an honest error -- like writing the wrong zip code. And that's just for starters!
Really, Ohio? This guy is the best you've got?
A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, and Congressman Jim Jordan has a very, very little bit of knowledge. He may not be smart enough to realize that a doctor groping the genitals of wrestlers is a crime, but Jordan is pretty good at taking orders. So when the word came down that the newest GOP strategy requires everyone to jump up and down shouting CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS ARE NOW ILLEGAL!!!!1!, Jim Jordan got right down to business.
Just this morning we told you about Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jordan encouraging Trump's accountants to flout a congressional subpoena because investigating Trump's financial documents is ILLEGAL. Last week he told Big Pharma execs not to cooperate with an ILLEGAL congressional investigation into drug pricing. And now he's trying to put an inquiry into vote suppression into a full nelson because, you guessed it, helping people vote is ILLEGAL.
It's almost enough to make us miss Trey Gowdy. But not quite.
It's CNN's fault really.
On Friday, Facebook suspended a Russian propaganda outlet after CNN ripped off the outlet's cheap rubber mask and exposed it as another Scooby Doo villain. As expected, the other Russian troll farms have kicked into overdrive, screaming about #censorship and double standards from the safety of the Kremlin's basement. They're arguing Facebook doesn't have transparency policies so they shouldn't have to tell anyone about all the rubles they get to push Russian talking points. How convenient!
As first published by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, and later reported by CNN, the viral video company Maffick Media was a subsidiary of Ruptly, which itself is a subsidiary of RT, the Kremlin's state-run media outlet. Maffick obscured its ties to the Kremlin by basing itself in Germany, hiring freelancers in Los Angeles, and running its operation out of WeWork spaces (rentable offices for hipsters and cheap douchebags). After CNN aired the report, Facebook suspended Maffick's pages for Waste-Ed, Soapbox, and Backthen, and said, "People connecting with Pages shouldn't be misled about who's behind them," as part of their campaign to root out "coordinated inauthentic behavior and financially motivated spam." Now The Moscow Times reports Maffick's flagship page, In The Now, was blocked.
We watch the Sunday shows so you don't have to!
Hello, Wonkers! It's time for your Monday recap of what happened on the terrible horrible no good very bad Sunday shows. Today, we have two treats for you, just kidding they are not treats, they are TERRIBLE.
We'll start on CBS's "Face The Nation," where Virginia Governor Ralph
Wiggum Northam gave his first interview since the story broke about the blackface/KKK picture in his 1984 medical school yearbook. After a long string of PR and racial mistakes followed by apparently taking a remedial "don't be racist" course for old southern white men, Northam was ready to show off his bona fides to CBS "This Morning" host and Oprah BFF Gayle King:
KING: I know this has been a very difficult week for you in the state of Virginia. So where would you like to begin?
NORTHAM: Well it has been a difficult week. And you know if you look at Virginia's history we are now at the 400 year anniversary, just 90 miles from here in 1619. The first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort what we call now Fort Monroe and while—
KING: Also known as slavery.
Goddamn it, Ralph! You didn't make it 30 seconds into the interview without showing that the remedial course is not working by using a euphemism used by racists to minimize slavery.
With the state attorney general, for the assist!
A couple weeks back (that's a century in Trump Hellworld Time), the Texas Secretary of State's office made a lot of news when it announced it had compiled a list of nearly 100,000 registered voters who might not be be citizens! Even scarier, the SoS said that between 1996 and 2018, some 58,000 of those maybe non-citizens had voted in at least one election!!!! This of course was bullshit, because what Secretary of State David Whitley had sent to counties -- and to the state attorney general -- to investigate was really a list of people who said they were legal aliens when they applied for a driver's license, and then at some later point registered to vote. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) doesn't actually keep records of citizenship status, and as counties started looking at the lists, they started finding LOTS of people who'd been naturalized, and then registered to vote. Golly, what a surprise! Just as voting rights groups predicted, the whole mess looked far more like an effort to remove naturalized citizens from the voting rolls in the wake of high Democratic turnout in the midterms.
This week, Whitley, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Greg Abbott in December, is up for confirmation by the state Senate, and Democrats on the Committee on Nominations gave him no end of hell yesterday for his little adventure in trying to rile up panic over "voter fraud." Dems were especially critical of Whitey's decision to send the list to the state AG for possible prosecutions, even though he knew the list probably included naturalized citizens. His answers to the committee didn't inspire a hell of a lot of confidence, either:
Whitley vacillated between telling lawmakers he referred the list of voters to the attorney general's office because his office had no power to investigate them for illegal voting and describing the citizenship review efforts as an ongoing process based on a list that still needed to be reviewed by local officials. But he made clear that his office knew from the start that the data could be faulty.
In fact, his office had cautioned counties that there could be errors on the list. But he sent the county-by-county lists out anyway, advising county voting officials to send a letter to everyone on the list, then prune the voter rolls of anyone who didn't reply in 30 days. That's a time-honored voter-suppression tactic called "purge by postcard" -- it may not identify ineligible voters so much as it takes the vote away from people who don't answer what looks like junk mail.
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