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According to a report from the Associated Press, lawyers for several of Jan. 6th Capitol rioters now facing jail time for storming the halls of Congress are asserting their clients were not part of a deadly insurrection but were working as "journalists" recording the action that day.
After having handed prosecutors a treasure trove of photos and videos of themselves taking part in the chaos of the day, participants are looking to duck responsibility with a legal strategy that appears dubious.
'It's unlikely that any of the self-proclaimed journalists can mount a viable defense on the First Amendment's free speech grounds, experts say," the report states. "They face long odds if video captured them acting more like rioters than impartial observers. But as the internet has broadened and blurred the definition of a journalist, some appear intent on trying."
Adding, "At least eight defendants charged in the Jan. 6 riot have identified themselves as a journalist or a documentary filmmaker, including three people arrested this month, according to an Associated Press review of court records in nearly 400 federal cases.," AP notes one participant in particular who is pushing his case.
"One defendant, Shawn Witzemann, told authorities he was inside the Capitol during the riot as part of his work in livestreaming video at protests and has since argued that he was there as a journalist. That explanation did not sway the FBI. The plumber from Farmington, New Mexico, is charged with joining in demonstrating in the Capitol while Congress was certifying Joe Biden's electoral victory over Donald Trump," AP reported.
According to Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the rioters don't have much of a case.
Saying, "any defendant captured on video encouraging rioters cannot credibly claim to be a journalist," she told AP, "You are, at that point, an activist with a cellphone, and there were a lot of activists with copyrighted videos who sold them to news organizations. That doesn't make them journalists."
You can read more here.
According to a report from CNN, former president Donald Trump's chaotic four years in office created problems for GOP strategists looking for a pathway back to retaking the House as voters fled the Republican Party in his wake.
At issue is the redrawing of districts that contain GOP majority voters that can be counted on for years and elections to come.
"The political upheaval caused by the rise of former President Donald Trump has forced party operatives and elected officials tasked with laying out the nation's congressional districts for the next decade to determine whether those shifts were aberrations or signs of more lasting changes," CNN Dan Merica reported before adding, "Trump's tenure saw dramatic shifts for both parties. Appalled by the then-President's caustic politics, voters in suburbs across America fled the Republican Party, backing Democrats in the 2018 midterms and Joe Biden two years later. Democrats also saw gains with more highly educated Americans. And Trump's time in office saw rural voters consolidating behind Republicans, as well as the GOP making significant inroads with Latinos in South Florida and South Texas."
Noting that maps are redrawn every ten years based on Census data, partisan mapmakers have their work cut out for them with all the shifting alliances.
"For those tasked with redistricting, especially in states with some political control, the pressure to get these calculations right is immense, given that the process could determine control of the House of Representatives for years to come," the report states. "Adding pressure to these calculations are dramatic demographic shifts across the country, with states in the upper Midwest and northeast likely to lose seats in Congress, while states like Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina are set to add seats because of growth largely fueled by minority voters."
According to Adam Kincaid, the head of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, Trump has made their job much more difficult, saying mapmakers need to question whether the recent changes are "the beginning of a new long term normal or at these temporary fluxes that we are feeling right now."
'I don't think anyone has the answer to that," he admitted.
According to a report from Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gov Brian Kemp (R-GA) had a rough past week as multiple county GOP committees held meetings where he was censured for not agreeing with Donald Trump that there was election fraud in his state that cost the ex-president his re-election.
Kemp, who has been embroiled in national controversy for signing a bill that will suppress voting in the next election, is likely facing an uphill climb if he runs for re-election after Trump made him one of his top targets as fought to remain in office.
Trump's fury has trickled down to Republican committee members across the state as any chance Kemp might have of appealing to grassroots voters in his state seems to now be out of reach.
According to the AJC, "Republican delegates in more than a half-dozen counties passed resolutions over the past week assailing Kemp for not doing more to help Trump's false claims of voting fraud. And several more also punished Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who have also drawn Trump's wrath."
The report goes on to note that Kemp has yet to draw a serious Republican primary opponent for his job, but GOP disgust with him could give his possible Democratic opponent a boost in a state that just saw both GOP U.S. Senate incumbents go down to defeat.
The committee rebukes,"...offered evidence that the governor must still shore up his base in an expected rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams, the nationally known voting rights advocate and former House leader who narrowly lost to him in 2018," the report states.
According to Brian Pritchard, a GOP activist in Georgia, a Trump endorsement might be Kemp's only hope of holding onto his job.
"Many of the Trump supporters that did not return and vote in the January runoff will not return to vote for Kemp in 2022," he explained. "The only way to get a Trump supporter to vote for Kemp is to get Trump to endorse Kemp. And we don't see that happening."
You can read more here.
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