In a spectacular act of complicity with the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services Monday released a proposal that allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman's access to contraception. In order to do this, the Department is attempting to redefine many forms of contraception, the birth control 40% of Americans use, as abortion. Doing so protects extremists under the Weldon and Church amendments. Those laws prohibit federal grant recipients from requiring employees to help provide or refer for abortion services.
One of the most important lessons of the 2020 election is just how easy it would be for someone with a little bit more savvy to upend the constitution and prevent the peaceful transfer of power in the future. Democracies don't always crumble as a result of violent revolution. It's often done by manipulating the law and using intimidation to ensure compliance.
The most famous example is the German Enabling Act of 1933, also known as The Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich. That law allowed Adolph Hitler to enact other laws, including ones that violated the Weimar Constitution, without the approval of either parliament or Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, effectively making Hitler a dictator. Through some adroit maneuvering and the detention of certain members of the Parliament, he was able to gain the two-thirds majority required and the courts all went along with it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Donald Trump is no Hitler, of course. He is not that clever. But he does have some of the same impulses, particularly when it comes to seizing power.
This week we learned, through the new Woodward and Costa book "Peril," that one of Donald Trump's closest legal advisers, a law professor by the name of John Eastman, had prepared a memorandum to serve as guidance for the Vice President to overturn the election on January 6th. The memo laid out a six-point plan:
First: The Vice President begins the counting with the state of Alabama as usual.
Second: When Pence gets to Arizona, he sets the electoral votes aside under the premise that there was an alternate set of electors that had been submitted. Likewise, he also sets aside the votes of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico under the false assertion that they too had sent alternate Trump electors. (They had not.)
Third: Pence then declares that the alternate states will not be included and since Trump then "won" the remaining votes, he has been reelected.
At that point he predicted the Democrats would "howl" and Pence would then compromise and decree that the vote could go to the House as the constitution allows in case of a tie. This would simply confirm a Trump victory since the Republicans controlled 26 out of 50 state delegations. Easy Peasy.
The remaining two points regarded commissioning Ted Cruz or Rand Paul to ensure that the filibuster remained intact so they could at least create a "stalemate" and allow states "more time to weigh in to formally support the alternate slate of electors." (This explains the frantic calls by Rudy Giuliani and Trump even as the insurrection was in full effect to Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-AL exhorting him to "try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you.")
But most importantly, Eastman insisted that Pence not ask anyone for permission to do any of this and instead just declare that he had the authority and that was that. The course for Trump's dictatorship would be set.
As we know, however, Pence dithered about all this before eventually asking former Vice President Dan Quayle what he should do. Quayle told him he had to follow the Constitution and perform his ceremonial duty as all previous Vice Presidents have done in this situation. (If his conscience didn't already tell him that he needs to turn in his little American flag pin and enter another line of business.)
What we didn't know until now was that this memo was circulated in January to some of Trump's staunchest Republican defenders in Congress, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Utah Senator Mike Lee, both of whom took it very seriously and had their top expert staff members look it over. They concluded that it was unconstitutional and in Graham's words, "third grade."
I guess we should be grateful that Trump's lawyers were so lame because it's quite clear that if they had been able to legally engineer this coup more professionally, people like Graham and Lee might very well have gone along with it. How do we know this? Because even though there was no evidence of voter fraud in the election, they didn't dismiss the idea out of hand. They were apparently open to the idea that Pence really could overturn the election on January 6th. They're both lawyers. They're both conversant with the Constitution and, more importantly, with the concept of democracy in which the loser of the election accepts the results and bows out gracefully. And yet they didn't object publicly to Trump's Big Lie until thousands of rioters stormed the Capitol. Of course, there were dozens of other Republican officials also saying there were reasons to "investigate" and pushing various aspects of the Big Lie as well. But these two knew what Trump was trying to do and they said nothing.
The lawyer who came up with this mad plot, John Eastman, gave a speech at the insurrection rally that told the whole story. In fact, one might even suggest it was the primary inspiration for the riot. He said he had petitions before the Supreme Court and he babbled a litany of false voter fraud claims before ending with this:
All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00 he let the legislators of the states look into this so we get to the bottom of it, and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government, or not. We no longer live in a self governing republic if we can't get the answer to this question. This is bigger than President Trump. It is a very essence of our republican form of government, and it has to be done. And anybody that is not willing to stand up to do it, does not deserve to be in the office. It is that simple.
I don't know if he believed that or if he's just a Trump partisan willing to win by any means necessary. But it doesn't really matter. This was a coup attempt. It was unsuccessful, but only because of the sloppiness with which it was put together, not because of the attempt itself. The Big Lie has since metastasized, largely at the hands of Republican officials who believe it will be useful to them in trying to regain power. Does anyone think that a more elegant "Enabling Act" wouldn't be supported by most of them?
Trump's greatest legacy may end being the fellow who showed Republicans just how dependent our democracy is on the goodwill and decency of the people who run it. He and his legal flunkies just left a roadmap for other unscrupulous authoritarians to follow.
President Joe Biden opened a Covid-19 summit of world leaders Wednesday with a promise to donate a "historic" extra 500 million vaccines to countries struggling to push back against the pandemic.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis," Biden said. "America will become the arsenal for vaccines as we were the arsenal for democracy in World War II."
The pledge from Biden at the summit, held virtually from the White House, brings the total US commitment of donated vaccines to 1.1 billion -- more than the rest of the world combined.'
"The US has already shipped 160 million of these doses to 100 countries," the White House said in a statement. "For every one shot we've put in an American arm to date, we are now donating three shots globally."
The new tranche of half a billion vaccines will be from Pfizer and aimed at poorer countries.
Biden was also due to challenge world leaders to vaccinate 70 percent of every country by September 2022, the White House said.
In his opening remarks, he stressed that the surge of vaccines must only be donated, with no "political" strings attached -- a veiled dig at China in particular.
The United States and other wealthy countries have been criticized by the World Health Organization for their plans to roll out booster shots for elderly and high-risk populations, while much of the world faces a severe shortage in doses.
But a senior US administration official told reporters that Washington is "proving that you can take care of your own, while helping others as well."
On Tuesday, in his first speech to the UN as president, Biden told delegates that the United States had put more than $15 billion towards the global Covid response and shipped more than 160 million doses to other countries.
- 70 percent target -
Despite the development of safe and highly effective vaccines in record-breaking time, huge disparities exist between countries with ample supply and others that have barely begun their immunization campaign.
President Joe Biden is set to announce the United States plans to donate an additional 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccines to the rest of the world Ethan Miller GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
Just 3.6 percent of Africa's eligible population has been inoculated -- compared with an average of more than 60 percent in Western Europe.
The summit -- technically held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly -- saw Biden and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosting a wide variety of health and foreign leaders.
They included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the heads of Britain, Canada, the European Union, Indonesia, and South Africa.
Washington will seek to rally the world around three goals, the administration official said.
These are: increasing vaccine supply; saving lives now by resolving the oxygen crisis and access to testing, medicine and therapeutics; and lastly improving future preparedness.
On vaccines, Biden will set an "ambitious target, which will require all countries to step up, so that every country, including low income and low middle income countries can achieve 70 percent vaccination before" next year's UN General Assembly, the official said.
While the latest global coronavirus wave peaked in late August, the virus continues to spread rapidly, particularly in the United States, which is officially the worst-hit country.
Some 4.7 million have died since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources.
© 2021 AFP
Alabama secretary of state destroys Mike Lindell's fraud claims: 'We didn't have any vote changes -- zero'
Alabama's secretary of state was unpersuaded by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
The right-wing pillow magnate visited secretary of state John Merrill and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week during his nationwide tour to prove the election was stolen through computer manipulation, which he claims took place there despite the former president's easy win in the state, reported AL.com.
"This was the one time we're going to have to do a little bit of a deeper dive here," Lindell claimed in a video posted online Sunday. "On the surface you can't see where it happened. What I guarantee they've had to do in Alabama is the bad people…went deeper into the well. Very deep into the well of how they did the flips."
Lindell claims 100,000 votes were changed across "every single county" in Alabama, which Trump won by nearly 600,000 votes, but Merrill dismissed those assertions as ridiculous.
"All our (voting) machines are custom-built," Merrill said. "There's no modem component. You can't influence them through a cell phone or a landline. There's no way they can be probed or numbers manipulated."
"We didn't have any vote changes -- zero," he added. "It's not possible to have any vote changed."
Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.
$95 / year — Just $7.91/month
I want to Support More
$14.99 per month