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As the long slog continues, a legal analysis finds the Republican former Senator's case still 'dead in its tracks'...
By Ernest A. Canning on 3/9/2009 12:12pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Ernest A. Canning

Last Friday, Al Franken's legal team argued a motion for the court to summarily dismiss former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's U.S. Senate election contest in Minnesota.

In support of the motion to dismiss, Franken attorney Marc Elias argued that Coleman had filed a "scattershot petition"; that in five weeks Coleman called more than 50 witnesses, placed in evidence thousands of pages of material, yet proved little more than a handful of previously-rejected absentee ballots should be opened and counted.

Moreover, Elias noted that eight of Coleman's original claims had been abandoned, pointed out that the court had previously ruled the parties had a burden of proving, on an individualized basis, that any previously-rejected, uncounted absentee ballots were lawfully cast, and thus, should now be counted.

Elias argued that while Franken was certified by the state canvassing board, at the end of the painstaking post-election hand-count, to have received 225 more votes than Coleman, the Coleman team, he said, had presented individualized evidence with respect to no more than nine (9) absentee ballots. Though, in the case of ballots cast by voters who did not appear to be registered, Elias conceded the Secretary of State had indicated, there may be as many as 100 ballots in which missing registration forms might be found inside the absentee ballot secrecy envelopes.

Elias argued that while trial courts ordinarily prefer to defer a ruling on a motion to dismiss until after both sides present their case, the expeditious nature of the proceedings and exigencies warrant an immediate dismissal, even before his team's own case is concluded...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Oh, and about that ACORN voter fraud...
By Brad Friedman on 3/6/2009 12:29pm PT  

In the Minnesota Independent's coverage of former Sen. Norm Coleman's latest push for a "do-over" election, they also point to our recent coverage of GOP chair Michael Steele's obnoxious and absurd fund raising email to GOP members:

Actually it’s surprising Republicans would even consider letting Franken off with a simple do-over when they’ve got the goods on him. According to a Monday fund-raising letter from RNC Chair Steele, Franken is “stealing Norm Coleman’s U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota.”

Well, that's a good point, isn't it? With Steele, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Republican National Lawyer's Association, and all of their affiliated wingnuts claiming over and over that Franken is "stealing" the election (as we detailed and linked in our report), why aren't the Republicanists calling for criminal charges to be brought against him?

It does seem rather gracious of them to allow Franken to compete in a "do-over" for a U.S. Senate seat which they claim to have evidence of him trying to "steal" in the first place, no?

Are the wingnuts just nice that way? Or are they just full of shit? Hmmm, tough call.

(BTW, with all of those charges by the Republicanists, before the election, of ACORN committing massive "voter fraud," shouldn't Coleman and the Republicanists have brought forward their evidence for that during this important election contest trial, since they seem to have lost by only about 250 votes? Especially in MN, where ACORN helped to register more than 42,000 new voters prior to last year's election? With all of those fraudulent ACORN voters, and with Coleman's team having gone over every single vote cast with a fine-tooth comb, you'd think the GOP could have offered evidence of at least one case of "voter fraud" committed by ACORN in MN, no? Apparently not.)

The BRAD BLOG has covered your electoral system, tirelessly, fiercely and independently for years, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work, which only you help to fund, with a donation to help us continue the work so few are willing to do. If you like, we'll send you some great, award-winning election integrity documentary films in return! Details on that right here...
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Hysterical fund raising letter from Michael Steele charges MN's 'Democrat' Senator-elect's apparent victory a 'tragic injustice,' 'outrageous power grab'...
By Brad Friedman on 3/3/2009 2:40pm PT  

The "one and only true party of the people" hoping to "rebuild...from the grassroots up," according to an email from its new chairman Michael Steele, seems to be having trouble doing anything differently from the old GOP party. At least if the latest fund raising letter from Steele, charging "liberal Democrat comedian Al Franken" as "stealing Norm Coleman's U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota," is any indication.

On the same day that former Senator Coleman rested his so-far failed case in his election contest in St. Paul against apparent Senator-elect Al Franken, the new GOP chair sent a missive to supporters, begging for money, using the same old failed tactics of the RNC of old; namely, lying to supporters about facts, offering specious, unsupported allegations of Democrats "stealing" elections (despite all evidence to the contrary), making liberal use of the word "liberal," and referring to Democratic party members as "Democrat" party members.

Steele's shameless email (posted in full at the end of this article) echoes the RNC's so-far failed conspiracy-theory strategy to "win" the Senate seat, as previously used by the Coleman camp, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (RSCC), the Republican National Lawyer's Association (RNLA), and GOP propagandists from Hannity to Rush to the wingnut blogosphere which dutifully repeat all of their tin-foil hattery, and/or supply it to them in the first place...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Franken team moves to strike Norm's claim of 100 'double-counted ballots' following revelation
UPDATE: Coleman fined by judges...
By Brad Friedman on 2/27/2009 4:36pm PT  

On Day 1 of the Coleman/Franken U.S. Senate election contest in Minnesota, the Coleman team was busted doctoring evidence.

Earlier this week, the Coleman camp was busted having withheld notes from Franken's team, and today, the end of Week 5, "all hell just broke loose in the Minnesota courtroom," according to TPM's Eric Kleefeld, when it was revealed that Coleman's team has also been hiding a witness, as revealed by secret email!

"Al Franken's lawyers [caught] Team Coleman in the act of yet more concealing of evidence --- and they've now made a motion to totally strike the Coleman camp's claims about double-counting of ballots, which the Coleman camp has hoped to use to subtract over 100 votes from Franken's lead."

Add to that what attorney Ernest Canning guest blogged here last week, explaining how Coleman's attorneys need to be sanctioned for having moved to un-count 933 ballots they'd previously signed a stipulation for, agreeing they were legitimately added to the total.

Just imagine what this case would look like by now, had Franken --- or any Democrat, anywhere, anytime --- been busted doing any of those things in regard to an election or an election contest.

On the roll, literally, in Phoenix right now, so please see Kleefeld for the details on the amazing fireworks today in the courtroom...

UPDATE 3/3/09: Coleman fined for the incident. Slap on wrist includes stern warning that case could be dismissed if it happens again, according to the Star-Tribune:

One of the more contentious episodes in the trial so far ended Monday when the judges slapped Coleman with a $7,500 fine for failing to disclose a document from a Republican election judge who claimed votes were double-counted in Minneapolis. But they allowed her testimony to become evidence.

"In the event this sanction fails to deter future conduct on the part of [Coleman's] counsel, the court will not hesitate to impose harsher sanctions, up to and including dismissal [of the case]," the judges wrote.

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'This is going to be big,' says Sen. Whitehouse
UPDATED: Hearing now scheduled for Wed., March 4th...
By Brad Friedman on 2/25/2009 10:13am PT  

[Updated at end of article, with details on hearing announced for next week.]

The Senate is quietly preparing plans to investigate allegations of torture under President George W. Bush, according to comments published Wednesday by Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The Senate Judiciary Committee could announce a hearing to consider various plans to probe allegations of torture as early as today, according to Salon's Mark Benjamin, citing Committee Chairman Pat Leahy and members of his staff.

Leahy's office told Raw Story Wednesday morning that a press release would be sent out shortly.

Sen. Whitehouse said he's "convinced" the investigation will move forward.

"Stay on this," he told Benjamin. "This is going to be big."

Whitehouse, Senator from Rhode Island, is "spearheading" the efforts, and as a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, "is privy to information about interrogations he can't yet share," the magazine noted.

Neither Salon's nor RAW STORY's coverage made it completely clear whether the Senators are discussing an idea that is different from Leahy's previously-floated "Truth Commission" --- where immunity would be granted to many who testify, in questionable exchange for making "the truth" known --- though this investigation does seem to be distinct from that one. We'll try to keep our eye out for Leahy's press release today, in case it offers some clarity. [Update: See details of Leahy's announcement added at bottom of article.]

One point from Salon, also worth highlighting, is that the tenacious Sen. Whitehouse seems keen on using this investigation to help disprove the often asserted notion that the Bush, um, "enhanced interrogation" policies saved lives, despite the lack of evidence supporting that wishful thinking, and the growing body of evidence and testimony --- from those who actually know --- which plainly disputes it.

Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, who led the investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, is quoted from a recent interview as disputing those who have claimed --- from the comfort of their keyboards --- that torture saved lives: "Some of those activities were actually not effective and those who thought so were in the academic or pristine settings of their offices," Taguba told Salon. "What would they know?"

Whitehouse adds: "It is important to prove the point, because they keep saying, 'We saved lives. We interrupted plans. We did this, that and the other.'...Well, when you drill down, there is never a fact there. It turns into fog and evasion."

Again, with Whitehouse on both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with access to much more information than has been made public to date, he oughta know. At least slightly more so than the Wingnuts who rule the public airwaves and, with it, the public "debate" on these issues to date.

UPDATE 1:34pm PT: On the Senate floor today, Leahy announced his plans for a hearing next Wednesday, March 4th at 10am ET (including a live webcast), called "Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry."

Details follow...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Sanctions are now warranted against the former Republican Senator, according to the legal analysis of a veteran attorney and political science scholar...
By Ernest A. Canning on 2/22/2009 2:05pm PT  

Guest Editorial by Ernest A. Canning

I am a California attorney. After 31 years of practice, I find myself in the enviable position of semi-retirement. As my practice winds down, I have had the luxury to follow the Coleman election challenge closely, both reading court filings and watching a good deal of the proceedings. I consider The BRAD BLOG the most extensive and thorough source of the dangers of E-voting. I felt, however, it would be useful to provide a legal analysis of the present state of the Coleman challenge.

Brad Friedman's described the latest effort by team Coleman to challenge absentee ballots it had previously agreed were properly opened and counted, as a "flip-flop,". While accurate, the term does not begin describe the deep legal dilemma now faced by Norm Coleman's attorneys in the U.S. Senate election contest in Minnesota...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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But there's method, of a sort, to the certifiable madness...
By Brad Friedman on 2/20/2009 11:50am PT  

Two quick updates to the Coleman/Franken Election Contest/Mini-Series playing out in Minnesota, both via TPM's Eric Kleefeld, since we're on another deadline today...

1) All of a sudden yesterday, the trial began rapidly picking up pace for some reason. A record "nine and a half" officials were "sworn in, direct-examined, cross-examined, re-direct-examined and excused"

2) Coleman may be setting an all-time flip-floppery record, as he has changed positions, yet again, on originally rejected absentee ballots that he agreed should be counted during the post-election hand-count. The counting of those ballots resulted in a 176 net gain for Franken, leading to his final 225 vote lead over Coleman at the end of that hand-count. As Kleefeld, who details the back-story here, describes it: "Coleman was originally against counting them, then for it, then against it, then for it, and now against it, in that order."

While the new position seems nearly insane (both on a legal, and practical level), the method to the madness is becoming clearer and clearer: Coleman, and his top legal hatchet-man/arsonist, "Swiftboat" Ben Ginsberg, are setting up the case for an appeal to higher authorities, to argue that the election was simply too close to call, the results within the "margin of error", beset with "illegally" counted ballots, and otherwise "fatally-flawed", and the election contest trial itself "a legal quagmire". All in hopes of asking somebody, anybody, (SCOTUS please?) for a do-over election.

We discussed that gambit, and its likelihood of success in this previous article. All of Coleman's moves, of late, seem to support that same general legal strategy.

Amusingly and ironically enough, it was Franken who the nutty Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) recently described as "desperate". Go figure.

The BRAD BLOG has covered your electoral system, tirelessly, fiercely and independently for years, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work, which only you help to fund, with a donation to help us continue the work so few are willing to do. If you like, we'll send you some great, award-winning election integrity documentary films in return! Details on that right here...
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(At least we think that's what she said she thinks.)
By Brad Friedman on 2/19/2009 9:55pm PT  

In today's Tim Dickinson interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Rolling Stone, it sure seems like she's leaning towards accountability for the criminals in the Bush Administration. Many of her words sound like the correct ones, even if she's a bit too enamored of Leahy's "Truth and Reconciliation Committee" proposal, which, among other "shameful" things, would likely results in a whole bunch of immunity, to a whole bunch of folks who deserve no such thing.

But she says she supports what Conyers is doing in the Judiciary Committee, in continuing to pursue Rove, Bolten and Miers. She says she can foresee a scenario in which senior members of the Administration are actually prosecuted. She says "The American people do not want wrongdoing to go unaddressed." She even said similar words to Fox "News" two days before the Inauguration.

So why does it always feel like she's still sitting on a fence? And, if she really believes these words she says, as House Speaker, can't she do more to make them happen?

Here's the snippets of note from Dickinson's interview. You tell us what the inscrutable Speaker really means. Or does she even know herself?...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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More evidence they may be preparing an appeal strategy to call for a 'do-over' in MN's U.S. Senate Election
UPDATE: 'Swiftboat' Ben Ginsberg declares trial a 'legal quagmire'...
By Brad Friedman on 2/18/2009 11:27am PT  

[Updated at end of article.]

While God may have chosen him, if not the voters of Minnesota, evidence is growing that former Sen. Norm Coleman may be preparing for a "do-over" gambit. We'd offered speculation on this front a week or two ago, and yesterday, following another slog of a day at the U.S. Senate Election Contest court in St. Paul, the Republican's top legal spokes, Ben Ginsberg, described the election as "fatally-flawed" in his post-trial presser. The freshly floated phrase has re-ignited speculation about Coleman's longer-term legal strategy...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Republican National Lawyers Association Says Goodbye to Any Credibility They May Have Once Had...
By Brad Friedman on 2/15/2009 6:05am PT  

If the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) ever had any actual legitimacy, self-respect, or credibility as a professional organization --- and I think they used to have all three --- they have now, officially, thrown any last pretense of any of that down the drain, and have come out of the closet as hard-right, conspiracy theory-based, propagandist loons.

On the day that presumptive Senator-elect Al Franken (D) won a huge victory during former Senator Norm Coleman's (R) election contest in Minnesota, the RNLA issued an hysterical email with the subject line: "Al Franken Loses Legal Battle, He Is Very Desperate."

See below for the embarrassing email that the once-respectable-now-whack-job RNLA sent out via their equally looney-toons "media arm" partners at HumanEvents.com this past week, in hopes of raising funds to "Stop Al Franken From Stealing The Election"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Late Friday ruling limits 'Ballot Universe' of those still under consideration for counting, to only those 'legally cast under relevant law'
Franken team pleased that at least 13 of 19 categories of previously rejected absentee ballots will not be counted...
By Brad Friedman on 2/13/2009 3:56pm PT  

[Updated several times at bottom of article.]

A late Friday finding from the 3-judge panel presiding over the Coleman/Franken U.S. Senate election contest in Minnesota has limited the number of previously rejected absentee ballots that may be reviewed for possible counting.

The 17-page order [PDF], issued late today, will likely come as a blow to former Senator Norm Coleman's (R) chances of overtaking presumptive Senator-elect Al Franken's (D) current lead of some 250 votes out of approximately 2.9 million ballots cast last November...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Even as the Republican argues to include ballots of voters who forged signatures and ballots they previously rejected
Plus: A bit more to bring you up to date with the latest...
By Brad Friedman on 2/11/2009 2:23pm PT  

While Norm Coleman may believe that "God wants [him] to serve," the voters of MN, and a ruling yesterday from the 3-judge panel presiding over his U.S. Senate election contest, still seem to indicate otherwise.

Yes, at it turns out, something actually happened during Coleman's ongoing trial yesterday, and it resulted in still more votes for Al Franken.

That, and other late developments follow...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 2/10/2009 1:05pm PT  

Speaking on wingnut radio Friday, MN's former Republican Senator Norm Coleman announced: "God wants me to serve."

No explanation was offered, however, for why God seems to have given more votes to his challenger, the apparent winner of the U.S. Senate race there, Democrat Al Franken.

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Plus: An interview with TheUpTake.org's Noah Kunin, live from Minneapolis...
By Brad Friedman on 2/7/2009 6:19pm PT  

To quote myself from coverage earlier this week, in case you hadn't read it all the way to the end: "Had Democrats ever fought as hard for every single vote as Republicans always do in any election that even approximates being close, President Gore or President Kerry would likely have ensured a very different judicial balance on [the U.S. Supreme Court] by now."

Thanks to the tremendous work by TheUptake.org, I've been hypnotized for hours at a time this week by live video coverage from the Coleman/Franken U.S. Senate election contest in MN, via their live feed from the courtroom, attorney pressers and "post game" analysis each day. Their coverage, as citizen journalists, has been exceptional each day, and MN, as well as the nation, owes them a big thanks. The work of the TheUptake.org is the very prototype of "what's to come" in news coverage as we move forward into the brave new century.

[Disclosure: VelvetRevolution.us, an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, has contributed in the past to TheUptake.org. Also: TheUptake.org needs funding to continue what they're doing! Please help them here if you can!]

Watching their coverage, and the various findings from the 3-judge panel in St. Paul this week, has both made my brain hurt, and made clear again what I've quoted myself noting above: Republicans will say anything, do anything, make any legal arguments --- no matter how much in wild contradiction with their very own previous statements and positions --- that they need, in order to fight for every vote they think they earned (and even many they know they didn't. In the bargain, nobody has called them cry-baby, tin-foil hat wearing sore losers or conspiracy theorists, and their strategy has already resulted in political gains (Al Franken, the apparent winner of the election by 225 votes, has not been able to offer his Democratic vote in the U.S. Senate while the trial continues), and could, if miracles and/or SCOTUS happens, result in an overturned election. Though that much remains very much a long shot.

While many of the GOP tactics here have been reprehensible, their strategy, of fighting for every single vote, is to be commended. The Democrats should --- but probably won't --- learn from it.

With all of that in mind, and in hopes again of not going too far into weeds, which is tough not to do (see our recent previous coverage, here, here and here, for example), what follows is my best stab at a very quick summary of the most notable events and rulings, etc. out of Minnesota this week.

Also, my audio interview with TheUptake's Senior Political Correspondent, Noah Kunin, from Minneapolis, as taped during my weekly Friday appearance on last night's Peter B. Collins Show, is also posted below...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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With only 98 Senators seated, the number needed to hold off GOP obstructionism drops to 59...
By Brad Friedman on 2/3/2009 3:36pm PT  

Presuming President Obama's nomination of NH's Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary will be confirmed by his fellow Senators, and presuming the Democratic Governor of NH keeps his backroom "deal" and appoints a Republican to fill Gregg's vacated seat, then Democrats in the Senate ought to take advantage of some arcane filibuster math, and hold up the seating of that replacement until MN's Senate seat is properly filled.

As things stand now, while former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is taking his sweet time in throwing everything he can think of against the wall to see what might stick, in hopes of winning his MN election contest against presumptive Senator-elect Al Franken, the Dems need two cross-over Republican votes, for a total of 60, to stymie any attempted GOP filibuster. (That math presumes that independent Senators Sanders and Lieberman both vote with the 56 currently-seated Dems, as they do on most matters.)

However, the Senate rule requiring a supermajority (three-fifths of the Senate) to shut down attempted fillibusters with a cloture vote, is based on the number of "Senators duly chosen and sworn" --- in other words, currently seated Senators.

With two seats vacant then, from MN and NH, after Gregg's departure, that would put the number of "duly chosen and sworn" Senators needed to stop a filibuster at just 59 (or, 58.8, to be precise, but since we're not allowed to count Lieberman as .8 of a human, the number needed for cloture would be 59)...

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