Two months since the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, the teenagers appear no nearer being found and freed, despite international support and media attention. As interest in the girls' plight tails off after a viral social media campaign…
Republicans in the Texas legislature were blasted by leading legal analyst for discriminatory redistricting maps.
Election law expert and University of Texas Law Prof. Steve Vladeck explained the new dynamics one day after the U.S. Department of Justice field a federal lawsuit for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
"The Justice Department sued Texas on Monday, challenging its newly drawn electoral maps at both the state and congressional levels. At its core, the lawsuit claims that Texas’ new maps discriminate against the state’s 'growing minority electorate.' And clearly, they do. The problem with the lawsuit is not its factual premise; it is the significant steps the Supreme Court has taken in the last eight years to make it easier for conservative states to get away with exactly such anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic) manipulation," he wrote. "Simply put, the latest front in the battle between the Biden administration and Texas reinforces just how fragile our democracy is becoming — and how directly the Supreme Court is responsible."
The 2020 Census found Texas had gained 4 million residents.
"Most of that growth came from minority groups, which now constitute a majority of the state’s population. Indeed, the statewide population of “Anglos” (non-Latino white Texans) was responsible for only 5 percent of that growth," Vladeck replied. "As Ari Berman has documented, Latinos, in contrast, make up 39 percent of the population but control only 20 percent of the districts. And only 2 percent of the districts have Black majorities, even though Black Texans are one-eighth of the state’s population. More fundamentally, the maps completely ignore the source of Texas’ explosive population growth, reducing the voting power of the very minority groups who are responsible for virtually all of the state’s gains in size."
Vladeck noted that the Texas maps would've been illegal until the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling.
"Shelby County effectively nullified the preclearance regime, though it left a window open for Congress to update the coverage formula. But it did not affect Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act — the statute’s central substantive prohibition on voting rules that discriminate based upon race. Shelby County thus required litigants to bring individual challenges to individual state practices, but it did nothing to make those challenges harder to win," he explained. "In July, however, the Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee made it harder to enforce Section 2, as well."
Vladeck says it is imperative for Congress to act.
"How far that reasoning goes remains to be seen. In that respect, the Biden administration’s new suit against Texas may be a bellwether. If the Voting Rights Act can no longer prevent a state that gained seats in Congress almost entirely because of minority population growth from redistricting to reduce the voting power of those minority groups, it will be a powerful testament to how much the Supreme Court has denuded that landmark civil rights statute," he explained. "That the case has to be filed at all shows how imperative it is for Congress to fix it, even if eliminating the filibuster is the only way to accomplish such reform. So long as these maps remain in effect, they will provide only further evidence of the fragility of our democracy — and how increasingly unrepresentative our 'representatives' are."
Watch AG Merrick Garland announce the lawsuit:
Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Texas to Challenge Statewide Redistricting.. www.youtube.com
President Donald Trump's chiefs of staff appear to conflict with each other over the tales from their time in the White House.
In Mark Meadows's new book, he claims that Trump never said that "Hitler did great things, as was printed in Michael C. Bender’s book Frankly, We Did Win This Election. I knew that he hadn’t."
According to Bender's book, Gen. John Kelly was giving Trump a kind of history lesson on how World War I led to World War II.
“Well, Hitler did a lot of good things,” Trump told the four-star Marine genera, according to the pages.
Trump was so furious that the story made it into the book that he summoned Bender to Mar-a-Lago to yell at him and make threats.
"Multiple people heard these things and confirmed them," said Bender about the Hitler remark. "That tells me that that's correct."
Trump went on to call it "defamatory," which Bender assumed meant Trump would sue him. Despite Trump's proclivity for lawsuits, he never did anything legally about the claim.
Meadows claims that when he began writing his book that he offered to come to Bedminster to "get his side of these one-sided stories."
"But it soon became clear that doing so would be pointless," said Meadows. "I did not ask the president, for instance, if he ever said that Hitler did great things, I did not ask whether he had ever balled up a newspaper and tossed it at Mike Pence, knowing that the answer would be an emphatic no."
Meadows's characterization of the "balled up newspaper," seems intentionally exaggerated.
Bender wrote that the moment came in May 2018 and was the "most heated Pence had ever gotten with Trump." News broke that Pence's super-PAC hired Corey Lewandowski, which he said was a favor requested by Jared Kushner.
"Trump threw the article at Pence when they climbed into the presidential limousine on their way to the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. Trump thought the story made it seem like his team was bailing on him in the middle of the Russia probe. Trump gave Pence the silent treatment for the rest of the ride. He finally spoke to the vice president on the way back to the White House—just long enough to criticize his No. 2."
"So disloyal," Trump said, according to the Bender book.
"Pence had spent almost an entire lunch with Trump discussing the plan," which apparently Trump had forgotten.
"We walked you through every detail of this," Pence said according to Bender. "We did this for you—as a favor. And this is how you respond? You need to get your facts straight."
That exchange reportedly took place in the presidential limo, meaning the story had to have come from those closest to Trump-like Pence or Gen. Kelly, who was still working as the chief of staff at the time.
Meadows was still in Congress when these events are reported to have taken place. He would have no knowledge of the situation, where Kelly and others interviewed for Bender's book were. "Multiple people heard these things and confirmed them."
In the acknowledgments, Bender specifically thanks John Kelly.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post explored the case of Matthew Michanowicz, a Pittsburgh man who planted bombs around an area where a Black Lives Matter protest had broken out in May 2020 — and why he received a surprisingly lenient sentence.
"The city was a tinder box that afternoon. Six days earlier, a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, sparking protests around the country. The day before, one in Pittsburgh devolved into a riot. Dozens were arrested. City leaders imposed a curfew," reported Jonathan Edwards. "The next day, Michanowicz rode his bike to check out the aftermath. He wheeled himself to a plaza below a skyscraper in the heart of downtown, planted the backpack with the three bombs he’d made and left. They never exploded, but prosecutors said they could have hurt or killed someone."
Ultimately, he was caught by police and pleaded guilty — but while prosecutors asked for at least 30 months in prison, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose, sentenced him to time served, six months of house arrest, and three years of probation.
"Michanowicz’s lawyer, Ken Haber, told The Post in a phone interview that the judge might have considered his client’s recent mental health issues and personal struggles," said the report. "Within a year of placing the bombs, Michanowicz lost his job as a successful medical salesman who worked with neurosurgeons. His father and a good friend died. He got divorced. 'I think the judge was somewhat convinced that he had a breakdown,' Haber said, adding that his client has stressed that he never meant for the devices to go off."
The murder of George Floyd triggered protests around the nation, and ultimately led to the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.