State supreme courts wield power over many areas of American life, from school funding to environmental protection, gun laws to voting. Even as the United States population has become more diverse, state high courts have been the domain of white judges, attorneys and staff. Many still are: Nearly half the states don’t have a single justice identifying as a person of color. But a growing awareness of the lack of diversity is slowly leading to change. When Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes the first Black female justice in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 233-year history, three justices of color and four f...
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Marsha Blackburn blocks bills that would ensure foreign countries can't interfere with American elections
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is behind an effort to block bills that could ensure US elections are more secure, Axios reported Monday.
The bills were Sen. Mark Warner's (D-VA) plan to ensure that after the Russian interference in the 2016 election, a foreign country could never do it again. According to Blackburn, however, they're a "federal power grab."
One of the bills would make campaigns call the FBI if they were ever approached by a foreign power and offered election assistance. During the 2016 election, Trump's campaign was offered "dirt" on opponent Hillary Clinton, and operatives met with the person offering the information in Trump Tower.
A different bill would fund the Election Assistance Commission, which would ensure that voting machines weren't connected to the internet. Republicans claimed after the 2020 election that the machines were being hacked and that was how foreign countries were able to decide U.S. elections.
The Senate Intelligence Committee released the third section of their report on the security of the election in 2016 and noted that it was "not well-postured" to counter it again. At the same time, the intelligence community has been warning that there aren't the necessary protections in place to ensure American elections are as secure as they could be. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that Russia continues its "informational warfare" campaign as the midterm elections approach.
"[Democrats] are attempting to bypass this body’s Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it?" Blackburn complained. "They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats."
Most state and local election offices don't have the staff or resources available to protect against international hackers or foreign spies.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg is nearing a plea agreement with prosecutors in Manhattan — but that he is still unwilling to cooperate with investigators against his former boss.
"His plea deal, if finalized, would bring prosecutors no closer to indicting the former president but would nonetheless brand one of his most trusted lieutenants a felon," reported Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, and Jonah E. Bromwich. "On Monday, Mr. Weisselberg’s lawyers and prosecutors met with the judge overseeing the case, according to a court database. The judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday in Mr. Weisselberg’s case, a possible indication that a deal has been reached and a plea could be entered then."
"While Mr. Weisselberg, 75, is facing financial penalties as well as years in prison if convicted at trial, a plea deal would scrap a high-profile trial and most likely would spare him from a lengthy sentence," said the report. "One person with knowledge of the matter said that Mr. Weisselberg was expected to receive a five-month prison sentence, an unexpectedly favorable outcome for him."
"The other terms of Mr. Weisselberg’s deal were not clear, and his lawyer, Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., confirmed that he was in discussions with prosecutors, but declined to discuss the specifics," the report continued. "Another lawyer for Mr. Weisselberg, Mary E. Mulligan, declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg."
The prosecution of Weisselberg came out of an investigation into the finances of the Trump Organization, which allegedly kept two sets of books, giving a higher valuation of their assets to banks when seeking a loan, and a lower valuation to the IRS to avoid paying taxes.
"The plea negotiations with Mr. Weisselberg came to light after a New York State judge, Juan Merchan, last week declined to toss out the criminal case against the Trump Organization and Mr. Weisselberg," the report added. "The attorney general, Letitia James, a Democrat, is conducting a civil inquiry into some of the same conduct that the district attorney is investigating."
On Monday, former solicitor general Neal Katyal took to Twitter to analyze the significance of the Justice Department's unwillingness to release the unredacted affidavit that helped them secure the search warrant for President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
One of the key points in the document, Katyal argued, will give Trump further cause for alarm.
"DOJ is appropriately resisting disclosure of the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit because it will compromise their ongoing investigation. This is very standard and right," wrote Katyal. "That said, what they said — especially about witnesses — will invariably drive Trump to be even more worried."
In the DOJ's filing, officials stated that the affidavit would require so many redactions as to be of little practical use to the public.
"Disclosure at this juncture of the affidavit supporting probable cause would ... cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation," said the filing. "As the Court is aware from its review of the affidavit, it contains, among other critically important and detailed investigative facts: highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)."
This also comes as Trump and his allies reportedly are searching for a "mole" within Mar-a-Lago who may have worked with the FBI to give them information about where and what classified information might have been stashed on the former president's property.