Real news is rarely made at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, an ostentatious Michigan schmoozefest where politicians beg lobbyists and multi-millionaires for cash and thirsty lesser-known candidates sometimes ditch their contempt for the media and do interviews in hopes they'll break out of single-digits in polling.
Don't get me wrong — it's not always boring. Sometimes political operatives get punched there.
Future GOP presidential candidates have been known to test the waters at the biennial event — although this weekend's selection was decidedly C-List with former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley bowing out. That left attendees with the rhetorical stylings of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who reportedly announced, “I never thought I would go to Michigan and live to tell about it."
The Michigan Advance didn't cover the confab — we were again denied credentials — which is part of an unfortunate pattern of elected officials and politicians ducking tough questions, which has only accelerated during the pandemic.
However, if you turned to the Advance this weekend for political and policy coverage, I don't think you left disappointed, as we strive to cover things other outlets don't. We talked to Black business leaders about the Detroit Chamber of Commerce's focus on inclusion and diversity at its annual conference (also on Mackinac Island) and what more needs to be done. We had an eye-opening look at the pandemic's toll on children, with thousands sickened and more than 1 million orphaned.
And we ran commentary from longtime Georgia political columnist Jay Bookman on the blueprint for former President Donald Trump's coup attempt, known as the Eastman memo (as it was written by Trump legal adviser John Eastman) — and why democracy is in more danger than ever even though it failed.
“In that memo, Eastman lays out a step-by-step scheme by which Vice President Mike Pence could single-handedly overturn the results of the presidential election and ensure that Trump stayed in office, despite having lost the election," Bookman writes. “Trump embraced the strategy wholeheartedly, as subsequent events have proved."
Had the Advance been at the MIGOP affair, you can bet we would have asked leaders about if they supported or condemned the Eastman memo and future attempts to overturn elections. I can't really think of a more pressing issue than whether or not donors, party leaders and elected officials believe that our democratic electoral process can be swept aside if a Republican doesn't win.
That's really the ballgame, isn't it?
We only have two major political parties in the country. If one of them is being led by people who believe that democracy and the Constitution are impediments to maintaining power, what does that mean for America's future? What does that mean for a free and independent press?
The conference featured a “voter integrity" panel in which GOP officials concluded that their big mistake in 2020 was not trying to create legal chaos early enough — not Trump failing to win enough votes or Republicans filing bogus cases lying about election fraud and causing an astroturf scene at Detroit's TCF Center to stop absentee ballot counting.
We would have followed up and asked about the national GOP effort to restrict voting rights in almost every state, including the “Secure MI Vote" voter suppression ballot measure. We would have asked, for instance, why is it even necessary, when the GOP-controlled Michigan Senate Oversight Committee concluded in an extensive report that there was no voter fraud in 2020 and blasted hucksters for making bank off election conspiracies?
But then again, those are probably the kind of hard-hitting questions the GOP party brass wanted to avoid.
Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.
Federal investigators studying a violent Amtrak derailment that killed three and injured dozens on Saturday near the small Hi-Line towns of Chester and Joplin have their work cut out for them.
The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent federal oversight body that probes air and surface transportation crashes, took over the scene from local emergency managers on Monday, and 14 NTSB investigators will spend around a week on site combing for information about the crash, officials said Monday. Only once this assessment is complete will the section of BNSF-owned track at the site of the derailment resume operation, a priority for a region connected by rail along the Hi-Line.
At this stage, only scant information is available: Investigators know from train's black box and camera footage that the 10-car, 2-locomotive Empire Builder was traveling between 75 and 78 miles per hour, and derailed around 3:55 p.m. on a “gradual righthand curve prior to reaching the switch," said NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg at a press conference in Joplin on Monday. The speed limit for passenger trains where the derailment occurred is 79 miles per hour.
“We are not ruling anything out at this point," Landsberg said. “This is our first full day on the ground."
The scene of the crash was a dramatic one, officials said, with some cars strewn 200-300 yards away. And it left them with a number of questions: could there have been a mechanical error in the train, or just an issue with the track? Were some individuals ejected from the train — a scenario in previous derailments, Landsberg said — or simply ejected from their seats within the train or none of the above? Were there “prior incidents with the switch?"
Investigators will also interview train crews and track inspectors — BNSF last inspected this section of rail on Sept. 23, and generally conduct an inspection every two weeks, according to the NTSB. And they'll try to understand what happened to the Empire Builder that didn't happen to a BNSF freight train that traveled the same section about 80 minutes prior, officials said.
The scope of these questions likely goes beyond this week, he said. The NTSB should release a preliminary report in about a month's time that should show generally what happened, but still more specific information about the cause could take months to come out.
Gov. Greg Gianforte visited Chester on Sunday, where he highlighted the work of first responders and said that save for five in the hospital, all passengers had made it out of the state. Those five are still hospitalized in Great Falls as of Monday.
The train itself, however, was cleared from the tracks by Monday afternoon, according to Bradley Warren, a reporter with KHQ in Spokane.
Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: email@example.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed on Tuesday that Donald Trump's administration had issued an order to withdraw from Afghanistan days after the then-president lost the 2020 election.
"On 11 November 2020, I received an unclassified signed order directing the United States military to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan no later than 15 January 2021," Milley testified before the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
"After further discussion regarding the risks associated, the order was rescinded," he added.
Watch the video below from C-SPAN.
General Mark Milley testifies that the Trump administration issued him an order on November 11, 2020, eight days after Trump lost the election, to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan before Trump leaves office. pic.twitter.com/IZRt28BZiS
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 28, 2021
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