Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, criticized the “unreasonable and ridiculous” attacks on American democracy from Republicans in the state Legislature as she called for federal action on voting rights during a virtual event hosted by the Center for American Progress, a nonprofit, progressive policy institute based in Washington, DC.
Rhodes-Conway appeared at the event with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and hosted by Patrick Gaspard, CEO for the Center for American Progress Action Fund to advocate for the passage of bills that would counteract attacks on elections from Republicans in Wisconsin, Texas and across the country arising from conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
“This is such a critical time in our country,” Rhodes-Conway said. “And it really is incumbent on all of us to understand what’s going on and to protect our democracy against the attacks that are coming towards it. Here in Madison, Wis., it has been incessant. We’ve certainly been fighting voter suppression and attacks on democracy for years. But in the past year, it has reached a new level, I think, that is unprecedented. And the attacks have gotten more personal. And they have gotten more just completely unreasonable and ridiculous.”
Madison has been a punching bag for Wisconsin Republicans for years, but as state legislators continue to dig through the 2020 election through partisan reviews and lawsuits, Rhodes-Conway and the city, along with the leaders of other liberal-leaning cities, have been targets of harassment.
Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is leading a partisan review of the 2020 election that has been criticized as unprofessional and dangerous, threatened to jail Rhodes-Conway and Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich over a dispute about how the cities would respond to subpoenas.
Madison, along with four of the state’s largest cities, has been attacked for accepting grant money from a group connected to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help pay for the costs associated with running an election during a pandemic.
At the Friday event, Rhodes-Conway said it’s been exhausting to deal with Republican attacks on elections.
“It’s frankly exhausting,” she said. “And to be fighting so hard to make sure that every eligible voter can vote in a way that is safe and secure and fair and easy. And then to turn around and be attacked, personally, professionally to have our clerks attacked at the level of what we’re dealing with is just unprecedented. We’ve had reams of open record requests, our clerks have been harassed, and in numerous ways. We’ve had many complaints, we’ve had lawsuits. And then now we have this ridiculous, and I have to use air quotes, “investigation” that’s being run by Attorney Gableman at the behest of Rep. [Robin] Vos.”
“But unfortunately, we’re still fighting over the 2020 election here in Wisconsin, and I am being personally attacked and threatened with jail time, for doing everything I could to make sure that people could vote safely and fairly,” she continued.
Vos, the Assembly speaker, has directed Gableman’s investigation and has helped spread election conspiracies.
Among the federal reforms Rhodes-Conway called for was an end to partisan gerrymandering. For the past ten years, Wisconsin has had one of the strongest partisan gerrymanders in the country which has cemented a near veto-proof Republican majority in a state that is evenly divided between Republican and Democratic voters in statewide elections.
The maps that will guide the next ten years of Wisconsin elections are currently in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court as part of a lawsuit, but Rhodes-Conway said if there were a new federal law prohibiting partisan maps, the government would work better for people across the state.
“Ending gerrymandering would transform politics, certainly in Wisconsin, but I think across the country,” she said. “In Wisconsin, in particular, it would end the dominance of anti-city politicians in our statehouse. And that would be just transformational for the city of Madison. You know, right now, the majority in the Wisconsin state house, frankly, hates the city of Madison, and looks for every excuse to punish us. And I tie that directly back to gerrymandering.”
Proposed voting rights legislation is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate because it does not have enough votes to clear the 60-vote threshold required to end a filibuster. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have so far refused requests from President Joe Biden and other Democratic senators to do away with the filibuster rule.
Rhodes-Conway said she believes the actions of both Manchin, Sinema and the 50 Republicans in the Senate are “repugnant.”
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The feud between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump has spilled into public view, but one political insider sees a chance for the Florida governor to steal some of the former president's thunder.
DeSantis criticized the former president's response to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and NBC News reporter Mark Caputo explained to MSNBC's "Morning Joe" how that signals a shift in the political dynamic between the two top contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
"I think at this point, and notice how I said 'at this point,' Donald Trump is still the center of gravity of the Republican Party around which others revolve," Caputo said. "He's got so much weight that he could kind of crush DeSantis in that. However, as time goes on and DeSantis becomes more popular in the GOP, things could change. A week is a lifetime in politics, and we're talking about 2024."
Trump has privately groused to allies that DeSantis hasn't publicly pledged that he won't challenge Trump for the nomination, and he appeared to take a swipe at the governor, but his guidance of Florida through the pandemic has won him many fans within the GOP.
"There is an interesting every evolution that happened around DeSantis," Caputo said. "He got elected in 2018 and took office in 2019, and around March 2020, the pandemic happened, and he was a subject to a lot of criticism from the national news media and from a lot of experts and, at first -- things changed with the delta variant in August -- but what you saw up until August of 2021 was DeSantis became more and more powerful with the base as he resisted more and more of the experts in of the media and what Democrats said he should do with mask mandates, later with vaccine mandates, and so he sort of grew into that role."
"DeSantis has a real kind of 'take on all on all comers' sensibility to him, he kind of can get in a fight on an empty room," Caputo added. "The base loves that."
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The Department of Justice has two new investigatory avenues to pursue after indicting eleven Trump supporters for seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"The most interesting aspect of the recent indictments of 11 people accused of involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on charges of seditious conspiracy isn’t who has been charged — but who might be charged next," former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote for MSNBC.
The former U.S. Attorney wrote that it is "likely that prosecutors aren’t done yet."
McQuade explained that the indictments help prosecutors move up to the higher people behind Jan. 6 and may result in cooperation agreements.
"Working up the chain of organized criminal conduct is part of the standard Justice Department playbook. Lower-level offenders can provide leads to higher-level offenders in two ways. One way is through the investigation of simpler crimes. For example, prosecutors may find ample evidence that a particular subject unlawfully entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. If prosecutors can also demonstrate probable cause that the person used his cellphone as a so-called instrumentality to commit the crime, a search warrant can be obtained for the contents of his physical device. A phone may contain evidence of criminal conduct, and it can also provide links to other offenders. Access to phones is particularly valuable in cases in which, as here, the defendants are alleged to have used encrypted messaging applications, such as Signal, to communicate, making it impossible for investigators to obtain the content of incriminating text messages through the normal route — from the service providers," McQuade wrote.
She also explained the indictments may make it more likely suspects with "flip" and testify against other co-conspirators.
"Another way lower-level offenders can lead to evidence against more serious offenders is through cooperation. Defendants who are charged with crimes and are likely to face conviction can often help themselves by sitting down with prosecutors and providing debriefings of everything they know. Prosecutors refer to this process as 'flipping' a defendant from the defense side to the prosecution team. If that information is valuable, prosecutors will ask the court to reduce the cooperator’s sentence. Cooperators can provide verbal testimony, as well as point investigators to documents and other witnesses who can corroborate their stories. Cooperators can even voluntarily share the contents of their cellphones, providing access to encrypted messages that prosecutors may have been unable to obtain in the absence of probable cause that they used the phones as instrumentalities for the crime," she explained.
The evidence obtained from this methodical approach can be "devastating."
"The recent charges indicate that this methodical approach has yielded results. The indictment includes verbatim quotations from encrypted text messages among the Oath Keeper defendants, and they are devastating," she wrote. "The content of other text messages appears throughout the indictment. No evidence is more powerful than the incriminating words of a defendant himself."
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