w/ Brad & Desi
w/ Brad & Desi
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
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Trump's never-issued draft Executive Order to seize the nation's voting machines in December of 2020 has now been released, and it contains a surprise or two that may sound familiar to BradCast listeners! Also today, some thoughts from our guest on how President Biden and Democrats may still be able to salvage the critical Build Back Better agenda recently blocked by Lord Manchin and Lady Sinema. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
First up, the National Archives is believed to have turned over most of the hundreds --- and perhaps thousands --- of documents subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election with his attack on the U.S. Capitol and other actions. The documents from the Trump White House were handed over to the Committee this week following the crushing, 8 to 1 defeat [PDF] issued to the disgraced former President by his own stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
One of the many documents we've been looking forward to seeing was said to be a never-issued draft Executive Order on "Election Integrity", supposedly directing the Dept. of Defense to seize the nation's computerized voting and tabulation systems on the baseless premise that they had all been hacked or manipulated in some fashion, and to establish a Special Counsel to investigate and prosecute the criminals responsible.
That draft EO was obtained and published today by Politico's Betsy Woodruff Swan. The 3-page order [PDF], dated December 16, 2020, directs the Secretary of Defense, "effective immediately", to "seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under" the federal law related to the preservation of election materials.
Happily, the Order was never actually issued. But, as we detail today, it's still stunning on several levels. For one, it quotes at some length from a 2020 ruling [PDF] by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg in the long-standing federal lawsuit challenging Georgia's use of new, unverifiable computerized Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting systems made by Dominion. That lawsuit was filed years ago by the non-profit Coalition for Good Governance.
If that all sounds familiar, it may be because we have covered that specific case on this program for many years now, as filed by the Coalition headed up by founder and longtime election security champion Marilyn Marks. She has joined us countless times on this program to discuss it, including after the complaint saw its biggest victory when Totenberg banned the state's 20-year old touchscreen voting systems made by Diebold, after she ruled them to be unverifiable, unsecure and, therefore, unconstitutional. Shamefully, Georgia's Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger subsequently replaced them with Dominion's equally unverifiable and vulnerable touchscreen systems, despite many warnings from voting system and cybersecurity experts. Totenberg's 2020 ruling, quoted in the draft Trump EO, allowed those new systems to be used for the first time that year anyway, despite the vulnerabilities, while issuing clear notice that she may well end up banning their use as well in the future.
The unidentified Trumpers who wrote the draft Executive Order titled "PRESIDENTIAL FINDINGS TO PRESERVE COLLECT AND ANALYZE NATIONAL SECURITY INFORMATION REGARDING THE 2020 GENERAL ELECTION", peppered the draft with lies about evidence of "probable cause" that Dominion's systems --- (as well as those made by about 8 other companies, several of which don't even deploy voting systems in the U.S., much less in the states Trump was challenging) --- were manipulated by "a massive cyber-attack by foreign interests". The Trumpers used the 2020 federal court ruling out of Georgia to further their evidence-free claims and even lied to say that "Every defect and hazard of which Judge Totenberg warned happened in Georgia."
If so, there is absolutely zero evidence to that end, according to one of the Coalition's experts on the case, Dr. Philip Stark of UC-Berkeley. He told me today via email that while "the vulnerabilities undeniably exist" in those Dominion voting systems, "there is (so far) no evidence that they were exploited in 2020 --- contrary to the claims in the draft EO."
In addition to misidentifying voting system vendors (and some of their actual correct names), the Order would have also directed the Sec. of Defense to compile an assessment of the matter in 60 days which, as Woodruff Swan observes, "could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021."
The unissued Order is dated just two days before a much-reported, lengthy, reportedly "bonkers" meeting in the Oval Office with Trump, his disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne (for some reason), and loony conspiracist attorney Sidney Powell, who reportedly hoped to be named as a Special Counsel to oversee this emergency "national security" matter after the systems were seized. The final directive in the draft EO calls for the appointment of "a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings [and to be] provided all resources necessary to carry out her duties." [Emphasis added.]
All of this underscores at least two important things. 1) Just how close this country under Trump came to an actual military coup ordered by the President of the United States to undermine and steal a Presidential election. And 2) The warnings that we have issued for nearly two decades now about how computerized voting systems that are so opaque and impossible for the public to actually oversee when they create and/or tally votes in secret, that --- even when they work as designed --- still allow for disingenuous cretins and liars like Team Trump to claim that they did not. That, in and of itself, as we have long warned, poses a grave threat to democracy and, clearly, national security. This matter should finally make that point crystal clear.
Before that story broke this afternoon, we had planned for our lede story today to be about how (and if) Joe Biden and Democrats can retrench and get their transformative Build Back Better agenda back on course, after both it and critical voting rights and election protection legislation were all blocked by Senate Republicans and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
We're joined today by HAROLD MEYERSON, longtime progressive columnist and editor at The American Prospect to discuss just that. He wrote about it earlier this week, before his suggestion for breaking up the Build Back Better act into small chunks (and hold votes to put everyone on record for the stuff that was being blocked) was echoed by President Biden during his press conference two days later.
As usual, it is an insightful and very lively conversation on all of that and more with the delightful Meyerson today.
Finally, we close with a story out of Canada on the billion dollar "carbon capture" facility built by Shell as a demonstration for how their new technology could remove dangerous emissions from the air and allow for the continued use of fossil fuels in a climate changed world. As it turns out, according to a new report this week, the facility actually emits more greenhouse gasses than it captures. Go figure!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Today on The BradCast: While this week will be seen by history as a shameful one for American democracy --- or, more specifically, for 50 Republican Senators and 2 Democratic ones --- it may also eventually become a celebrated week for all of the encouraging criminal accountability news that is now coming in on what seems like an hourly basis for our disgraced and failed former President. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
Among the many stories covered today...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Biden floats breaking up his Build Back Better bill; Volcanic eruption and tsunami cause widespread devastation in Tonga; Extreme heat records shattered in Southern Hemisphere; PLUS: Exxon pretends to care about the climate... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): 2021 was one of the hottest years on record, and it could also be the coldest we'll ever see again; What happens when a country becomes unlivable?; New research shows heat risks to children are mounting as temperatures rise; 450+ scientists call on PR firms to cut ties with fossil fuel clients; Winter gas price hike hell; What Canada wants to do with its mountains of nuclear waste; Interior reveals plans for orphan well cleanup; How a coal company convinced Georgia to let it bury toxic waste in groundwater; Power companies back EPA climate authority at Supreme Court... PLUS: Florida's red tides worsened by pollution, climate change... and much, MUCH more! ...
Joe Biden is now one year in. Donald Trump is now one year out. Have the media figured out how to properly cover either or both of them? We discuss on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
But first, Trump's troubles are getting worse by the
day hour. It's been a bad 24 hours for the disgraced, twice-impeached, one-term former President. But that's usually good news for America!
As we literally begin today's program, news breaks that the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the National Archive to turn over hundreds of pages of Trump White House documents to the bipartisan U.S. House Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election.
That bad news for Trump (and good news for everyone else) follows last night's bad news for him (and good news for us) out of a New York state courtroom. NY Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating years of apparent bank, insurance and tax fraud by Trump, the Trump Organization, and Trump's children for years. She recently subpoenaed Trump and his kids Ivanka and Don Jr. to sit for depositions in her civil probe. (She is also working with the Manhattan D.A.'s long-running criminal probe into related matters.) Trump and the kids sued to quash the subpoena and, late on Tuesday night, James' office filed documents in response, detailing what she describes in the court papers as "significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
We discuss some of that "significant additional evidence" today, along with the additional news that when Eric Trump, back in 2020, failed to quash his own subpoena, he subsequently "then invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions over six hours.” That's his right, of course. But back in 2016, while running for President, Trump described pleading the Fifth as "disgraceful". "The mob takes the Fifth," he said at the time. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" We'll see if he, Ivanka and Don Jr., soon join his "disgraceful" son Eric in doing the same, along with the Trump Organization's "disgraceful" Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who's already been criminally charged with fraud in Manhattan after also pleading the Fifth more than 500 times as well during his own deposition with James.
And then there's the new guy in the White House, who doesn't seem to be criminal or a liar or a fraudster at all. Today marked the end of Joe Biden's first year in office. It's been a rocky one at times, but also extraordinary successful on a number of legislative and economic issues.
We're joined today by ERIC BOEHLERT, longtime media analyst and publisher of the Press Run newsletter, to discuss media coverage of Biden at the one year mark, and how it compares to coverage of Trump's first --- and subsequent --- years in office.
While Biden's approval numbers have been flagging in recent months --- Gallup pegs his one year average at just under 49% --- they are still above Trump's during his entire Presidency. Nonetheless, we saw little from the media declaring Trump's Presidency was over or a failure at the end of his first year, by way of contrast with what we see from the media now, despite several remarkable successes for Biden over the last 365 days.
"It's very similar to Obama," Boehlert asserts. "If you go back and looked at his first year, first term, 'Oh his coalitions are falling apart!' Lots of doomsday coverage for Obama that turned out to be nonsense." He later adds, "Good luck going back and finding stories about whether the Trump Presidency was failed, 'How does he reset?,'" after his first year. "There was an acceptance that Trump was going to poll in the thirties, and the press just went on from there. In terms of how the coverage differs from Biden and Trump, I think that's the key one there."
Suffice to say, the difference in coverage of each President, as Boehlert details, is stark. And not in a good way. Among the other related issues discussed, above and beyond media coverage of the two Presidents: Has the media come to fully understand, much less appreciate, the unprecedented nature of this tenuous moment for American democracy itself?
"We have two sides," Boehlert explains. "A center-left Democrat doing his best, and we have a Republican Party that wants to destroy free and fair elections in America. So if you're the press, don't play that down the middle. Don't pretend those are similar choices."
"When Trump was inaugurated, the press didn't change how it covered Trump," he observes. "You would read the coverage and think Jeb Bush was President, you would think John McCain was President. You would think this is center-right, normal, traditional....not this madman narcissist. I think with the Biden era, they just want to play this game --- 'His polling is down! We've found some Democrats who are critical of him!' These aren't the times for the norm. The Trump years weren't the time for the norm. And we're not seeing drastic change." And that failure by our corporate media is not a good sign for the nation. Or the planet.
Finally today, it appears that Fox "News" is not satisfied by simply rewriting reality in the present. They are now attempting to rewrite history itself, it seems, as far as who actually killed Abraham Lincoln. Seriously. In the bargain, a Lincoln assassination expert's response to an invitation to appear on Fox Nation (the propaganda streaming service companion to the propaganda cable news channel) to discuss it, is one for the ages!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast: The ongoing GOP effort to undermine American democracy by making it harder to vote and easier to cheat in elections continues amid the fallout from Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. While you might think Republicans would pay a price for joining him in that effort, its Democrats --- and voters in general and American democracy itself --- paying the price, even as the Big Lie continues to fall further apart with each passing day. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
As you know, Republicans have been using false claims of massive (and, apparently, evidence-free) "voter fraud" in the 2020 election as a pretext to adopt new voter suppression and election subversion laws in GOP controlled states. The fruits of those corrupt efforts are already paying off. In Texas, for example, County Clerks across the state are reporting that the state's new anti-voting law, S.B.1, is forcing them to reject hundreds of legitimate absent ballot applications in one of the most difficult states in the nation to vote by mail already.
New I.D. requirements for ballot applications have resulted in rejections of nearly half of the absentee applications in Travis County, home to the state's capital of Austin. Worse, the state's Secretary of State has yet to issue rules for how County Clerks may legally notify or help the rejected voters to cure their applications in advance of the state's March mid-term primaries. (The application deadline is Feb. 18.)
Many of the rejected applications are from voters that have been voting by mail for years. But the new state law now requires applicants to include either a drivers license number or state I.D. number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on the application. While some don't notice the new requirement and are rejected on that basis, others do include one of those numbers, but are still being rejected! Why? As Democrats had warned when trying to block the bill, the TX law now requires that whichever number a voter uses on their application must match the number on their voter registration form, many of them completed years ago. If the voter includes a drivers license number on their application, for example, but their registration includes a State I.D. number instead --- or no number at all (as is the case with millions of voter registrations in the Lone Star State) --- their applications must now be rejected. Mission accomplished?
Meanwhile, the GOP's Big "voter fraud" Lie continues to fall apart in Arizona, where Joe Biden has been confirmed many times over to have lawfully defeated Trump in 2020. On Friday, in the second largest county in the state, Pima (home to Tucson), the Pima County Attorney's Office determined that, of the 151 cases referred to them as possible cases of voter fraud after 2020, ZERO actually merited criminal charges. There remain a handful of possible fraud cases elsewhere in a the state (less than 50). But, of course, if all known cases of possible fraud in Arizona turned out to be actual fraud and all of those votes were somehow in favor of Biden, there still wouldn't be nearly enough fraudulent ballots to reverse his 10,000+ vote victory out of about 3.2 million ballots cast in the state. Nonetheless, in AZ as well, Republicans are using their lies about "voter fraud" to make it harder to vote and easier for them to cheat in elections.
But the biggest story on today's BradCast involves gerrymandering, perhaps the most critical reason our federal government and our democracy has become so seemingly irreparably broken. Democrats in the U.S. Senate this week have combined the combined Freedom to Vote Act (which, among many other critical election reforms, makes partisan gerrymandering unlawful in all 50 states) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which restores the requirement for federal pre-clearance of new election laws in states with a history of racial discrimination in elections after SCOTUS gutted the landmark provision) into one single bill called the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. All 50 Democrats in the majority claim to support the newly combined bill. Zero Republicans do. But unless two Democratic Senators (Sinema and Manchin) agree to modify the Senate filibuster rule to allow democracy-saving legislation to be adopted with a simple majority vote, none of it will become law and the GOP efforts to game elections will be largely free and clear through 2022.
For several years, experts have been warning that, following the 2020 Census, the new round of redistricting was going to be very bad for Democrats in GOP-controlled states. That, after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and later declared that federal courts may have no say at all on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, But, with about half of the new maps now redrawn by states in advance of the 2022 mid-terms (with several being challenged in state courts), are they as bad as many pundits had foretold?
A number of redistricting experts of late have suggested that the new maps aren't nearly as bad for Dems as they might have been. But is that true? We're joined today by Brennan Center's Senior Counsel for its Democracy Program, MICHAEL LI, who serves as the non-partisan organization's redistricting expert.
Last week, in an op-ed for Washington Post, Li describes the notion that gerrymandering hasn't been too bad for Democrats this year as a "misleading narrative" for a host of reasons. Experts, he notes, had predicted a bunch of safe Democratic seats would be remapped into Republican districts. "They expected Democratic seats to fall," Li explains. "But instead, what Republicans are doing is shoring up the disproportionate advantages they already hold" following the extreme partisan gerrymanders from 2011.
"In Texas, under the old maps, Democrats have 36% of the seats. Under the new maps they have 37% of the seats, so very little change," he tells me by way of just one example. "But the competition is gone. So whereas under the old maps there were competitive districts, under the new maps, even if Democrats got 58% of the vote [across the state], they would still have the same 37% of the seats, which hardly seems fair. Even if Texas turned deep blue, Republicans would have almost a 2-to-1 advantage. That's the perniciousness of the state's gerrymander."
There are other examples, in North Carolina for instance, where the maps are currently being challenged in state courts. We also discuss how the Supreme Court's unwillingness to hear partisan gerrymandering cases has affected all of this and whether or not the Court will similarly begin to turn away racial gerrymander cases as well in the not too distant future.
Li goes on to explain why the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act --- if Republicans or Manchinema were to allow it to be passed into law --- "would be a game-changer" on this issue. It "would transform redistricting. There would be a ban against partisan gerrymandering in Congressional redistricting. It would be easy to calculate and figure out whether a map violates that and, if a map does, then it's blocked from use pretty automatically, perhaps even in time for 2022 if Congress were to pass it soon."
But, alas, unless there are some surprises in the Senate this week, the bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. So, what's left? Should Democratic-controlled states, in order to save democracy itself before the 2024 elections, gerrymander their own maps as aggressively as Republicans have? As much as it pains me to do so, I have previously argued that they should. Does Li agree? Tune in to find out!
Finally, before we go, the mid-show breaking news that Rudy Giuliani and a number of others who were very close to the disgraced former President as he was attempting to steal the 2020 election have now been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol...
We're fighting again today on The BradCast to prevent the murder of American democracy. Lord knows Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin don't seem to give a damn about it. As usual these days, that means looking both forward and back. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
On Thursday in Wisconsin, as Election Law Blog described it, a rightwing Circuit Court Judge "suddenly discovers that, despite years of use, absentee ballot drop boxes are actually unlawful." He is now ordering that ballots may be returned only in person (not by family members or neighbors) or by much less secure U.S. Postal Service boxes. Unless overturned on appeal, the ruling could have a chilling effect on critical Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections in the Badger State this year, after some 500 secure drop boxes were successfully deployed across the state without incident in 2020.
There is better news for democracy's future this week out of Ohio (of all places). The Republican majority state Supreme Court, in two 4 to 3 rulings --- with the GOP Chief Justice serving as swing-vote with the court's three Democrats --- struck down new maps for both state House and Senate districts, as well as the one drawn up for Congress by Ohio's new Redistricting Commission.
The Commission was created as part of a Constitutional amendment adopted by 71% of voters in 2015, in hopes of doing away with far-right partisan gerrymandering in the Buckeye State. Their constitution now requires maps reflect the general partisan makeup of the state, which the court found leaned 54% to 46% toward the GOP in statewide elections over the past decade. But the Republicans who currently control the Redistricting Committee drew up maps that lean well over 2 to 1 in favor of their own party!
"When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins," the court majority wrote. "[T]he evidence in these cases makes clear beyond all doubt that the General Assembly did not heed the clarion call sent by Ohio voters to stop political gerrymandering." Despite the state's narrow GOP advantage, the Congressional map proposed by the Commission would have given Republicans a 12 to 3 advantage over Democrats in U.S. House races! Shamefully, Justice Pat DeWine --- son of Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine (who, himself, sits on the Redistricting Commission!) --- refused to recuse himself from the vote --- just to give you an idea of how much the GOP is hoping to murder democracy in Ohio. Happily, it didn't work, and Democrats are likely to pick up several U.S. House seats when real maps are drawn up to meet the state constitution's (and voters!) requirements and the Supreme Court's approval.
The state-by-state, court case-by-court case slog to preserve democracy will now continue, as the two obstructionist Democrats in the Senate, Sinema and Manchin, show no signs of defending it in the U.S. Senate. A debate on the two critical federal voting rights and election protection bills they both claim to support --- the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act --- will receive a vote next week, thanks to some parliamentary maneuvering to avoid a GOP filibuster to hold a debate. But they are likely to with zero Republican votes for either measure (ten would be needed to overcome the Senate's 60-vote filibuster threshold) unless Sinema and Manchin do the right thing and vote to reform the undemocratic Senate rule. No one believes they will. But at least they'll be on record so voters can hold them accountable --- or try to.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, don't tell Brit Hume, but Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and ten of his henchmen were charged with seditious conspiracy for their part in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The deadly assault was in hopes of preventing the certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory as part of Donald Trump's effort to steal the 2020 election.
We're joined again today by MARCY WHEELER, longtime independent investigative national security journalist at Emptywheel.net, to discuss what the new charges may mean as the Dept. of Justice moves up the chain of command in their investigation --- their largest in history --- of the Jan 6. insurrection and how, and if, this brings them closer to the kingpin, our failed former President.
Over the holidays, Wheeler joined guest host Nicole Sandler to lay out a persuasive case that Merrick Garland and the DoJ are, in fact, vigorously working from the bottom up to potentially reach Trump. She described how they are making headway in that regard. Today, Wheeler explains how the new charges are likely to move the DoJ closer to several main instigators of the deadly U.S. Capitol attack, including Trump's right-hand men like Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani and Alex Jones.
"What the [charge of] seditious conspiracy does, for Rhodes in particular, is it broadens what he was doing and really implicates his efforts to arm everyone," she tells me. "We knew that these efforts continued after January 6th. They still thought that Trump was going to invoke the Insurrection Act. So they were all gathering in Texas and acquiring arms to do that. That shows the continuity of plans beyond just January 6th."
She notes the new charge of sedition also "shuts up the Republicans," who have increasingly claimed the attack wasn't particularly violent, dangerous or any big deal --- and many in the media, naturally, have been going along with that idea. But with charges of sedition "the media is finally paying attention. I've had conversations with about 5 CNN people who, for the last month and a half, were saying 'Nothing was happening,' [but] now are like, 'Wow! Big news!'"
"The real point of this indictment is to turn the screws on the people that are charged to try and get them to flip," Wheeler contends, as prosecutors work their way up from those who committed lesser crimes, through the more violent and pre-planned ones, up to those behind it all.
In addition to the seditious conspiracy charges, prosecutors have added "another conspiracy for interrupting a government official's duty," she observes. "The reason I'm interested in that is when you look at these conspiracies, every single one that has ever been written in this investigation could plunk Trump right into the middle of it."
"But with Stewie [Rhodes], you go beyond January 6th. You start talking about an attack on Joe Biden. That's what I think makes it seditious conspiracy. But the added conspiracy charge of interrupting a government official, that's something Trump did," she argues. "One of things that DOJ has been focused, laser sharp since very early, is the way in which all of these rioters were targeting Mike Pence."
"DoJ is turning the screws," Wheeler claims. "They're trying to get these people to flip. That's what I think you would need to get through to Roger Stone and, beyond him, to others."
As usual with our friend Marcy, there is lot to discuss and digest. She follows all of these cases --- hundreds of them brought so far --- likely as close or closer than anyone in the country. Tune in today for much more on all of this!
Finally, just to leave today on one more encouraging note...Last week, we reported that Virginia's GOP Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin had tapped coal lobbyist turned Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler as his new Secretary of Natural Resources. But, on Friday, more than 150 former EPA officials who served under both Democratic and Republican Administrations sent a blistering letter to the commonwealth's Democratic-majority state Senate, urging them to reject Wheeler's confirmation. If Ds stick together, they would be able to use their 21-19 majority to stop Wheeler's confirmation dead in his corrupt, coal-dusted tracks...
Our guest on yesterday's BradCast nailed it. The stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court did, in fact, strike down one of the Biden Administration's vaccine mandates today (the one that allows employees to not get vaccinated if they choose), while narrowly approving the vaccine mandate for all health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
The Omicron surge continues to rack up both record infections and hospitalizations. Death counts are now on the rise as well. Though there are hopeful signs that some parts of the U.S. may be peaking or plateauing, and that, in a few weeks, the surge may plunge as quickly as it initially spiked over the past few weeks. The advice this week from the Los Angeles County Health Director to hang on for just a few more weeks and avoid any non-essential public gatherings, particularly indoors with the unvaccinated or those at high risk of severe illness during that period, is likely good advice for everyone in the nation at this time.
That is especially true now that the non-medical experts at the U.S. Supreme Court seem dead set on preventing actual experts charged with protecting workers from helping to protect millions of them.
As Slate's ace legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern predicted on yesterday's BradCast, the packed Republican Supreme Court did, in fact, put a stay on President Biden's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate for workers at large companies with more than 100 employees to either get vaccinated or get tested weekly. The other case heard during emergency oral arguments last week, the Administration's Health and Human Services mandate for vaccination of all workers at health care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding, was narrowly allowed to remain. Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joined the Court's three liberals in a 5 to 4 opinion [PDF] on that one.
Today, we step through the absurdities of the Majority opinion from the Court's rightwingers on the stayed employer mandate [PDF], as well as the even more absurd --- but dangerously so --- Concurring opinion authored by Justice Gorsuch with Thomas and Alito, as well as the furious Dissent, jointly penned by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.
"Underlying everything else in this dispute is a single, simple question," the Dissenters wrote, 'Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from COVID–19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?"
The stinging Minority dissent derides the non-expert Court Majority for being the ones to decide that the non-experts in Congress, as opposed to the experts at the Executive Branch agency charged by Congress via specific statue to protect workers, must make specific medical decisions through legislation for those workers. It is, of course, madness. Especially, as the Dissenters note, the Court's "Members are elected by, and accountable to, no one," whereas those at OSHA are not only experts, but "responsible to the President, and the President is responsible to—and can be held to account by—the American public."
Tune in for all the details. But the good-ish news for the moment is that only three of the Court's rightwingers were willing to sign on to the idea that statutes granting Executive Agencies the power to regulate things should be ignored when there is a "major question" at stake, as we discussed in some detail with Stern on Wednesday. But that good-ish news may not stand for long, as the Court will hear a case next month with even broader implications, as to whether the EPA, despite its statutory charge by Congress, is allowed to regulate pollution that is causing our climate emergency and much more. As we detailed yesterday, we are, in fact, watching the far-right "deconstruction of the Administrative state" before our very eyes.
Then, in what would, during normal times, be our lead story today, we quickly cover the arrest of Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia outfit, who, along with ten others in his group, were charged today "seditious conspiracy" for their part in the Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, as part of Donald Trump's plot to steal the 2020 election.
The federal charges are the most serious to date in relation to the January 6 attack and are precisely what our guest from several weeks ago, Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, told guest host Nicole Sandler was likely to soon happen, as the Dept. of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland continued a painstaking bottom-up probe. And yes, we did interview the Oath Keepers' Rhodes on this program back in 2016. Here is a link to that lively, if occasionally testy, interview.
And, in one more related matter on an absurdly busy show (restructured about five times before air today as news kept breaking!), GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy, who recently told a reporter he "wouldn't hide from anything" when he asked if he was willing to speak to the bipartisan House Select Committee investigating January 6th, refused to cooperate with a voluntary invitation on Wednesday to speak with the Committee. In response to the news, Carl Bernstein (of Watergate's Woodward and Bernstein) told CNN on Wednesday night that the Committee already "has the goods" on McCarthy and what he said to Trump on Jan. 6 "and McCarthy has lied about it since."
"So, we have a real conspiracy, a real cover-up, real stonewalling in excess of anything we saw in Watergate," said Bernstein...who should know.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, which is packed with even more news during the final few minutes of today's program...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Offshore wind leases are on the horizon for the East Coast; World's oceans were the warmest in recorded history in 2021, for the third year in a row; Weather extremes in Brazil are spiking global food and commodity prices; PLUS: Biden EPA cracks down on toxic coal ash waste pits contaminating groundwater... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Feeling hopeless about the climate crisis? Try this 30-day action plan; New extreme temperature Records set in the U.S. in 2021; Here’s how California plans to spend $37 billion fighting climate change; Energy storage is not just lithium anymore; Communities of color more likely to be exposed to air pollution; Nepal's blossoming honey industry crushed by wild weather; UK Government invites oil companies to help write environmental rulebook; 6 in 10 Americans now 'alarmed' or 'concerned' about climate change; Warming puts key Arctic pipelines, roads at risk; DOE blew $1.1B on carbon capture projects that were mostly failures ... PLUS: The future of fashion is justice and sustainability... and much, MUCH more! ...
Well, we start today's BradCast with some encouraging news. At least until our guest arrives. [Audio link to full, must-listen show follows this summary.]
First up, the investigators are closing in. In Congress, the House Select Committee investigating Trump's January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are now "requesting" an interview and documents from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, centered on his communications with Donald Trump "before, during and after" the insurrection.
Meanwhile, down in Georgia, Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney Fanni Willis also appears to be closing in on Trump and his fellow conspirators regarding their attempt to steal the 2020 election in the Peach State. In an interview with AP published on Monday, Willis said her team is making "making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation." She also believes a decision will soon be made on whether to indict Trump and several others. (Meadows? Giuliani? Lindsey Graham?) “I believe in 2022 a decision will be made in that case,” she told AP. “I certainly think that in the first half of the year that decisions will be made.”
And on Tuesday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported "that attorneys for former President Donald Trump have now met in person with the Fulton County District Attorney's office in Georgia." The meeting reportedly took place last month, around the same time that Trump issued an unhinged, seemingly out-of-the-blue statement that few knew what to make of: "All the Democrats want to do is put people in jail. They are vicious, violent, and Radical Left thugs. They are destroying people's lives, which is the only thing they are good at...their DA's, AG's, and Dem Law Enforcement are out of control." Suddenly, his remarks makes a lot more sense.
Welp...That's about it for today's encouraging news, before we are then joined by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal journalist for Slate on what appears to be Steve Bannon's dream of the "deconstruction of the Administrative State" about to come true.
Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on challenges to two separate COVID-related Biden Administration mandates. One applies to businesses with more than 100 employees, requiring them all to either get vaccinated or take weekly tests for the virus. The other requires vaccination for all workers at health care facilities that accept money from either Medicaid or Medicare. Both rules were set to take effect as the Omicron surge has led to record pandemic hospitalization numbers. The first was issued by way of regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the second via the Health and Human Services Administration (HHS). Both are based on authorities granted to the Executive Branch agencies via statutes adopted by Congress. Though none of those statutes, passed years ago, include the word "COVID" in them. So now they are both being challenged by Republican state Attorneys General as unconstitutional over-reaches by the Administration.
Based on tea leaves read during Friday's oral arguments --- with two of the challenging attorneys infected with COVID and arguing remotely --- Stern believes it's possible the employer mandate could survive, but that the health care mandate is likely to be struck down.
But buckle up for today's conversation with Stern about all of this, because these cases are a much much larger than simply about the COVID mandates, even though they are likely to save hundreds of thousands of American lives unless struck down by the Court. These challenges squarely target the so-called "Administrative State" which, as you'll recall, Trump's disgraced Senior Political Adviser Bannon vowed in 2017 that they planned to "deconstruct". That may finally be about to happen, thanks to Trump's stolen and packed Supreme Court.
We dive too far into the legal and Constitutional and political weeds to adequately summarize here, but the argument comes down to who has the Constitutional right to "protect the general welfare" of the citizenry on matters of public health (and much more). Is it Congress, which has no expertise in these matters? Or the Executive Branch agencies created by Congress and filled with such experts? Ironically, the ultimate body who will make this decision is going to be the Judicial Branch, which, like the Legislative Branch also has no expertise in these issues.
All of the COVID mandate challenges are based on legal doctrines such as the "major question doctrine" and the "nondelegation doctrine" (both explained by Stern) which, unlike the General Welfare clause, do not actually appear anywhere in the Constitution at all.
"There is nothing (in the Constitution) that requires these principles, and certainly nothing that gives the federal judiciary the power to decide what the Executive Branch gets to do and not do under Congressional delegations," Stern explains. "All of this stuff has been made up. It was made up a long time ago, and used to block New Deal programs under FDR, then immediately abandoned and discarded for nearly a century. Only in the last few years has it been revived by so-called 'originalists' who are seeking to box in Democratic Presidents and prevent them from issuing any kind of policy."
"We are talking about a really recent revival," he continues. "Because as recently as the early 2000s, the Supreme Court unanimously disclaimed any real version of the non-delegation doctrine, and a majority opinion written by Antonin Scalia [of all people!] basically said 'We don't have any expertise, it's not our job to tell Congress what it can and cannot entrust the Executive to do'. We are only about two decades out from that, and the entire conservative legal movement has turned on a dime and decided that, in fact, the courts have this intense obligation to police the boundaries between these branches, even though there's nothing in the Constitution that permits it, much less requires it."
The Scalia majority opinion in question, which Stern "encourage[s] everyone to read" is 2001's Whitman vs. American Trucking. "It is a very clear explanation of why the federal courts have absolutely no business mucking around in this kind of cooperation and negotiation between Congress and the Executive Branch. Twenty-one years later, everyone has decided to ignore that opinion on the Right and pretend like it never happened."
So, what will it mean if the Court now decides that experts at Executive agencies mandated by Congress to exercise their expertise may not do so? The fallout could be enormous and terrifying and go well beyond COVID and these two cases. By way of one example, Stern notes, next month the Court is about to hear a case where "the Biden EPA wants to restrict carbon emissions at power plants. While federal law gives the EPA vast authority to regulate and restrict all kinds of toxic and harmful emissions from power plants, it doesn't explicitly say 'carbon'. It says the EPA needs to decide what counts, and we will defer to their expertise."
But, Stern notes later in our conversation, "this does not start or stop with carbon. This goes to every toxic chemical on the planet, which Congress simply does not have the time or expertise to list. So, anytime you're thinking about the amount of benzene, or methane, or whatever horrific chemical you want to talk about in the water supply, the air supply, that stuff is regulated by the EPA, not directly by Congress. And if this Supreme Court goes as far as I fear it will, we are going to have a lot more unnecessary deaths because of a horrific amount of pollution that the President is going to be told that he simply cannot curb."
And, yes, even that is only the tip of the melting iceberg. It also goes farther than the EPA, to dozens, if not hundreds of other federal agencies and regulations on labor rights and much more, as Stern details. "But that is what these Justices seem to want, and that is the road that we are already following down," he warns. "We live in a juristocracy, my friend, and we are only just beginning to see the downstream consequences of it."
As noted, buckle up for this one...
As it turns out, it wasn't an attack from highly skilled opposition mercenary warriors trained in the art of espionage, deception and surprise attacks that took down the Cyber Ninjas. It was their own incompetence, dishonesty and hopes of escaping huge court fines for failing to follow the rule of law that appears to have done them in. Or, perhaps they're just in hiding, ready to pounce again when they are least expected! [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of this summary.]
First up on today's BradCast, however, before we get to the "death" of the Ninjas and their ongoing clown show, President Biden and Vice President Harris traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday to call for U.S. Senate filibuster reform in order to pass voting rights and election protection legislation with a simple majority. That, in hopes of countering voter suppression and election subversion measures being adopted by GOP controlled states across the nation.
All 50 Senators who caucus with the Democrats (plus Vice President Harris) are on record in support of the critical Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But in the U.S. Senate, while that simple majority vote may be enough to cut taxes or allow drilling and mining on previously protected federal lands or seat Supreme Court Justices for life, it's currently not enough votes to protect American democracy. Not with the Republican Party now fully in opposition to both voting rights and democracy while Senate rules require a 60-vote super-majority to pass both pieces of legislation.
As Biden pointed out in his remarks today --- for the first time, offering a full-throated call to reform the Senate rules --- the united GOP opposition to voting rights is fairly new. Until recently, even Republicans voted in support of expanding and protecting voting rights at the federal level --- at least enough of them to overcome a Senate filibuster. But not anymore. At the same time, obstructionist Democrats Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) have refused to allow the majority to create a carve-out to the filibuster --- akin to hundreds of others in the Senate --- to adopt the legislation that both of them claim to support.
This week, Manchin even went so far as to describe the filibuster to reporters as a critical Senate tradition that has been in place "for 232 years." In fact, the filibuster as we now know it has been in place since 1975, as historian Max Kennerly explained on a Twitter thread in response to Manchin. "232 years ago, in 1790, a simple majority could end any debate," he notes. And Adam Jentleson, Harry Reid's former Chief of Staff who wrote a book on the filibuster, went so far as to alert Manchin to how much the Constitution's framers virulently opposed a super-majority requirement for anything at all, quoting both "father of the Constitution" James Madison and Alexander Hamilton from The Federalist Papers. (Which is why there is no such requirement in the Constitution.)
"Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self," Biden, a former six-term Senator, declared in his impassioned remarks on Tuesday, describing the filibuster as having been "weaponized and abused."
Whether the Biden/Harris calls in Atlanta for reform will have any effect on the clueless Manchin and the similarly disinformed or dishonest Sinema remains to be seen. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to insist that "failure is not an option", vowing a series of votes on the matter between now and Monday's Martin Luther King Day holiday.
Meanwhile, the GOP fight against election integrity may have hit a few embarrassing snags after their infamously failed "post-election forensic audit" in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona last year. As you already know, the state GOP Senate's taxpayer funded audit theater found no Chinese bamboo in the County's 2.1 million hand-marked paper ballots, but it did declare that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by even more votes than originally certified. And if you follow The BradCast, you also may know that real election audit experts discovered that even those numbers were apparently "made up out of whole cloth" by the Ninjas, whose actual count of the ballots (never mind the results on them) was off by tens of thousands.
The final report that the Ninjas and its CEO Doug Logan produced last year on behalf of the GOP State Senate, also included 77 claims of "possible" fraud in the County's reported tallies and other questions to raise alarms about the legitimacy of tens of thousands of "maybe" illegal votes.
As it turns out, however, according to a 93-page, point-by-point rebuttal [PDF] of each of those claims, released last week by the Republican-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors after months of investigation, 76 of the Ninjas' 77 claims were completely wrong.
For example, according to the Ninjas' final audit report, 5,295 voters "potentially voted in multiple counties" in Arizona. The county found, however, that, in reality, just 5 voters may have done so. (They've forwarded their findings to the state AG). The Arizona Republic's Jen Fifield offers a helpful, detailed summary of most of the key rebuttals from the County, explaining how the Ninjas got it so embarrassingly wrong on virtually every "misleading, inaccurate and false" score.
The County's response to the Ninjas' pathetic report was mostly lost, however, amid the news the next day that the Cyber Ninjas were claiming to be no more. A spokesperson announced that they had shut their doors and all employees, including founder and CEO Logan, had been let go, following a contempt ruling from an Arizona Superior Court Judge. He found that failure by the Ninjas to turn over thousands of pages of public records documenting their "audit", its financing, and their communications with officials about it in two separate lawsuits violated the law. The plaintiffs sought a $1,000/day penalty until the documents were turned over. The judge informed the Ninjas they would be fined $50,000/day instead! They then declared they no longer existed, like a ninja disappearing into the night! Except they are really shitty ninjas.
The judge has stated that their claims at insolvency in an attempt to shut down to avoid the court fines was not going to work, threatening to apply the $50,000 daily fine to individuals with the company, like "former" CEO Logan. As it turns out, Logan formed a second company last year named Akolytos, using the same business and mailing addresses as the Cyber Ninjas. But his hopes of escaping the court fines through that second company may not work either, as journalist Kim Zetter details in her latest, excellent Zero Day newsletter. SAD!
Finally, as the Northeast grapples with a brutal cold snap today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, detailing the record warmth of 2021, and the disturbing increase in emissions causing our climate emergency over the past year...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: U.S. emissions spiked in 2021, jeopardizing Paris climate targets; 2021 clocked in as the fifth hottest year ever recorded; PLUS: New York State's new Governor goes big on climate and clean energy... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): The hidden agenda behind the attack on vaccine mandates; Disinformation rampant on clean energy; USDA to double cover crop planting to address climate change; Manchin's coal corruption is so much worse than you think; Biden to scrap plan for wider Alaska oil drilling; Lakes are losing their ice cover faster than ever; US has twice as many abandoned oil and gas wells as previously thought; Fusion energy is a reason to be excited about the future... PLUS: From small to large, five green hydrogen projects to watch... and much, MUCH more! ...
As usual, there is nothing but fantastic news on today's BradCast! (Okay, maybe that's not entirely true. But the caller segment was lively!) [Audio link to full show is at the end of this summary.]
Among the stories covered and/or referenced today...
During the holidays, our guest host Nicole Sandler interviewed longtime independent investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, who has been tracking the DoJ's probe and indictments of insurrectionists --- as well as the higher-ups who plotted the year-long coup attempt --- as close as anyone. Wheeler argued that those who have been critical of Attorney General Merrick Garland for not doing enough to date (including us!) haven't been paying close enough attention. She explained how the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack is working from the top-down and how DoJ (who, don't forget, raided Giuliani's home, office, computers and telephones soon after Biden took office and is still working through those documents) is working from the bottom-up. Wheeler details that both probes may almost be at the same place now, just a step or two away from Donald Trump himself.
Moreover, during remarks last week at the DoJ to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1/6 attack and the subsequent largest investigation in the Department's history, Garland explained: "The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law --- whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead."
So, with all of that in mind, should we feel better about what Garland and the DoJ are now up to? We open the phones to listeners to get a sense of exactly that...
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