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Confederate flag license plate battle to be decided by Supreme Court Monday

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday takes up a free speech case on whether Texas was wrong in rejecting a specialty vehicle license plate displaying the Confederate flag – to some an emblem of Southern pride and to others a symbol of racism.

The nine justices will hear a one-hour oral argument in a case that raises the issue of how states can allow or reject politically divisive messages on license plates without violating free speech rights. States can generate revenue by allowing outside groups to propose specialty license plates that people then pay a fee to put on their vehicle.

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The group Sons of Confederate Veterans says its aim is to preserve the “history and legacy” of soldiers who fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War. Its proposed design featured a Confederate battle flag surrounded by the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896.” The flag is a blue cross inlaid with white stars over a red background.

The group’s Texas chapter said its members’ free speech rights were violated when the state rejected the plate. Several other states have approved similar plates.

When Texas rejected the proposal in 2010, the state said it had received public comments that suggested “many members of the general public find the design offensive” in large part due to the Confederacy being synonymous with the institution of slavery.

A black Texas Democratic state senator, Royce West, said in 2011, “Ill-intended or not, why would African Americans want to be reminded of a legalized system of involuntary servitude, dehumanization, rape and mass murder?”

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas officials did not have grounds to reject the plate, prompting the state to seek high court review.

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The legal issue is in part whether messages on state-issued license plates represent speech by the government or an endorsement of a private message. If determined to be private speech, the state’s rejection could violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment free speech guarantee.

Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which backs the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said although the flag “served as a banner for those who supported slavery and segregation … Texas cannot pick and choose the plates it approves on ideological grounds.”

A ruling is expected by the end of June.

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The case is Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-144.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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WATCH: Jim Jordan repeatedly tries to shut down David Holmes as he destroys GOP’s argument

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Holmes about his statement that he told several people about his concerns with President Donald Trump's call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ambassador Bill Taylor did not testify that he spoke to Holmes about the call.

Jordan then went on to cite all conversations that Taylor mentioned, to illustrate that Taylor never mentioned Holmes and question whether Holmes was lying.

"My I answer the question?" Holmes asked.

"I'll get to you in a second," Jordan said, and the audience laughed.

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Nunes cuts off GOP lawyer when cross-examination flops as Fiona Hill outlines damning case against Trump

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Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was forced to cut off the House GOP's own attorney after he gave former National Security Council official Fiona Hill an opportunity to outline the damning case against President Donald Trump.

Nunes' interruption came while attorney Steve Castor was asking questions about Hill's past interactions with European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland, whom she admits she got upset with after learning that he was working on Ukraine policy despite the fact that Ukraine isn't even a member of the EU.

"What I was angry about was that he wasn't coordinating with us," Hill said, referring to the National Security Council. "And what I realized was, listening to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. He wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing."

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WATCH: Devin Nunes stunned after State Dept. official David Holmes knocks down his ‘black ledger’ conspiracy theory

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Intelligence Committee Ranking Republican Member Devin Nunes Thursday afternoon appeared stunned when he questioned a U.S. State Dept. official during the impeachment hearings and did not get the answer he anticipated.

Rep. Nunes has been spewing far right wing conspiracy theories during each impeachment hearing over the past two weeks, including the thoroughly debunked lie that Ukraine – not Russia – attacked the U.S. 2016 election.

(Earlier one of today’s witnesses, Dr. Fiona Hill, publicly lambasted the spreading of the false Ukraine conspiracy theory as she sat just feet away from Nunes. The video is here.)

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