The day after the Kansas City Council approved legislation that could reimburse city employees who need to travel to have an abortion — and after St. Louis began pursuing similar legislation — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt called the efforts “plainly illegal.” Kansas City’s ordinance, which passed 10-2 during Thursday’s meeting, could reimburse city employees for health care-related travel expenses outside of Kansas City. The legislation approved Thursday directs the City Manager Brian Platt to negotiate with Healthcare System Board of Trustees on the city’s insurance plans. Any chang...
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Tuesday night, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming lost the Republican primary by 37 points to Harriet Hageman. Cheney has drawn relentless fire from Donald Trump for being one of two Republicans on the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Hageman, on the other hand, ran on a platform of advocating Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election and denouncing efforts to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Late Tuesday, Trump gloated about Cheney's loss, posting that "Cheney should be ashamed of herself" for standing up against Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The very next day, Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, filed a 121-page motion asking a judge to reject a subpoena to testify in a case investigating Trump's efforts to steal the state's electoral votes from President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
On the surface, these two events may seem unrelated. The timing, however, is likely not a coincidence.
Kemp has gained an undeserved reputation as a "moderate" since Trump's failed coup efforts in 2020, largely because he refused to void out Biden's win in Georgia in 2020 and declare Trump the winner instead. But Kemp's resistance to Trump's anti-democracy efforts has been reluctant, at best. Cheney's primary defeat was expected, but there can be no doubt that the size of it sent a chilling message to the rest of the party: Stand by Trump or else. With his refusal to testify against Trump, it seems Kemp got the message loud and clear.
The Georgia case is being conducted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is looking into Trump's extensive efforts to steal the election in Georgia. Kemp was subjected to quite a bit of pressure from Trump during this time. In early December 2020, the Washington Post reported that Trump personally called Kemp to demand that the governor "call a special session of the state legislature for lawmakers to override the results and appoint electors who would back the president at the electoral college." Kemp refused.
Cheney's primary defeat was expected, but there can be no doubt that the size of it sent a chilling message to the rest of the party: Stand by Trump or else. With his refusal to testify against Trump, it seems Kemp got the message loud and clear.
In the months since, Kemp has been subjected to a lot of hagiography in the political press over this, casting him as a staunch defender of democracy. The likelier story, however, is that Kemp simply didn't think he had the power to do Trump's bidding. His concerns about the legal consequences have been subsequently validated by the existence of Willis' grand jury investigation. Throughout the entire attempted coup, Kemp's communications strategy was to portray himself as reluctant and hamstrung, not actually resistant to Trump.
As I told the President this morning, I've publicly called for a signature audit three times (11/20, 11/24, 12/3) to restore confidence in our election process and to ensure that only legal votes are counted in Georgia. #gapol https://t.co/xdXrhf1vI2
— Brian Kemp (@BrianKempGA) December 5, 2020
His official statement when he did certify the election results is emblematic of this: It focused almost entirely on the repeated efforts to "audit" the election, announced yet another slate of efforts to make it harder to vote, and validated Trump's lies with language about the supposed "discrepancies" in the election. Only in the final paragraph did he say, "I have the solemn responsibility to follow the law" to explain why he certified the election.
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Despite Kemp's efforts to portray his stance as "I would if I could," he's been subjected to months of public bullying from Trump. While Kemp, unlike Cheney, beat back his Trump-endorsed primary challenger, it appears he still has concerns that attracting more Trump abuse ahead of the November election could drive down voter turnout and make it easier for Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams to win. Kemp's court documents heavily focus on his election fears if he actually answers the grand jury's subpoena. The filing accuses the district attorney of engineering "the Governor's interaction with the investigation to reach crescendo in the middle of an election cycle" and arguing that the testimony could be put off until after the election. Kemp's team is so worried that this subpoena could impact his re-election, in fact, he openly accuses Willis of "election interference."
Kemp is smart to worry. Republican leadership believes, with good reason, that the surprise victories of Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia on January 5, 2021 were due in large part to Trump's Big Lie. That election happened while Trump was all over the news, falsely declaring that elections were "rigged," which Republicans feared would drive down turnout among their own voters, who might actually believe Trump's lies. A similar situation could happen to Kemp. If he testifies against Trump, it's near-certain that Trump will explode with public vitriol, causing some Republican voters to stay at home rather than vote for someone Trump deems a traitor.
Willis has not pulled her punches in reaction to Kemp's stonewalling, writing, "You repeatedly referring to it as a politically motivated investigation does not make it so. In fact, you repeating it so many times only proves you have become very comfortable being dishonest." She reminded him that the testimony he gives would not be public.
She added that the investigation "will not be derailed by anyone's antics."
Kemp's team has been cooperative in the past, turning over 138,000 pages of information, most of it voluntarily. Indeed, he had been scheduled for a voluntary interview in July, before he pulled out. Georgia's Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had testified publicly before the House committee investigating January 6 just weeks prior. While Raffensperger seems to have escaped the political black hole that is Trump's rage, the same cannot be said of Republican Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who also testified against Trump that day. Bowers then lost his primary at the beginning of August.
Trump's public gloating over Cheney's primary loss isn't just a reaction from a man who is famous for his emotional incontinence. It's a signal to anyone else in the Republican party who is facing down a choice between defending democracy or standing by Trump: If you do the former, he will do everything in his power to destroy you. Kemp, as one of the main targets of Trump's ire in the past year and a half, no doubt knows Trump's love of making threats. Few in the GOP want Cheney's fate, and Trump is using that to control them.
Two key witnesses testified Wednesday in the retrial of two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.
Ty Garbin of Hartland Township, and Kaleb Franks of Waterford, said the defendants were fully onboard with the plan and eager to implement it. Garbin and Franks, who are considered vital for the government’s case, pleaded guilty following their arrest and agreed to testify for the prosecution.
Adam Fox, 39, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, are being tried for a second time on conspiracy charges after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in their cases, but acquitted two other men.
Garbin told jurors in a Grand Rapids federal court Wednesday that he didn’t recall that two FBI informants who trained with the group were responsible for proposing that Whitmer should be kidnapped.
The role of the informants became a key issue in the first trial, with defense attorneys arguing that the defendants had no real intention to kidnap Whitmer and had been entrapped.
Conflict arose on Wednesday between defense counsel and the judge when the lawyers were limited to 25 minutes each for cross-examination of Franks. One of the attorneys, Joshua Blanchard, called the limitation unconstitutional considering that Fox and Croft face possible life sentences if convicted.
“The court has been interjecting in the defense case,” said Blanchard. “It has not been interjecting in the government’s case. And it’s creating a perception, I think, among the jurors that the court has a preference for how this case ends.”
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, who complained last week about the trial’s pace, defended his decision, saying there was no need for certain questions to be “teed up over and over again.”
Garbin and Franks recounted again how they trained with Fox, Croft and others in a remote area, including in a so-called “shoot house” used to simulate the kidnapping. They also testified how the group traveled to Whitmer’s vacation home in Elk Rapids at night to see a bridge that they planned to blow up so as to slow up police response during an attack.
Both men said they freely joined the plot and that neither undercover FBI agents nor informants convinced them to do so.
Garbin also testified that nearly six months before they were arrested, he and Fox were at a gun rights rally at the Michigan Capitol in June 2020.
“Adam Fox had mentioned storming the Capitol building and arresting elected officials and holding them on trial for their crimes and treason,” said Garbin, adding that Whitmer was at the top of the list.
“Hang her on public TV for the world to see,” he testified.
Both Garbin and Franks were questioned by defense attorneys about their guilty pleas, getting them to acknowledge that they were seeking a lighter sentence.
Garbin was previously sentenced to six years in prison but could get a further reduction for his cooperation. However, both men insisted that no one asked them to lie and that their testimony was truthful.
Testimony is continuing Thursday.
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In the wake of the FBI's raid on Mar-a-Lago in search of classified documents allegedly taken from the White House by Donald Trump at the end of his term, the former president and his allies have claimed he had a "standing order" to declassify documents he took. But according to 18 former top Trump administration officials speaking to CNN, the claim is false.
"Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given," said John Kelly, who served as Trump's chief of staff. "And I can't imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it."
Mick Mulvaney, who succeeded Kelly as acting White House chief of staff, told CNN he was "not aware of a general standing order."
According to CNN, one official after another rejected the claim of a standing order.
"Total nonsense," one senior White House official said. "If that's true, where is the order with his signature on it? If that were the case, there would have been tremendous pushback from the Intel Community and DoD, which would almost certainly have become known to Intel and Armed Services Committees on the Hill."
"Trump and his allies have made a wide range of claims about declassification in the days after the FBI's August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, which resulted in federal agents seizing 11 sets of classified documents -- including some marked with the highest levels of classification," CNN's report stated. "On his social media platform Truth Social last week, Trump made the sweeping claim that the documents in the boxes seized by the FBI at his home were 'all declassified.'"