Should he go through with issuing a self-pardon, it would likely force the hand of the Biden administration's Dept. of Justice to charge him with crimes, the only real way to test whether or not he constitutionally can self-pardon.
As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018
Despair is worse after a brief period of hope. I don't know about you, but I was elated earlier this spring when it seemed as if Trump and COVID were gone, and Biden seemed surprisingly able to get the nation rapidly back on track.
Now much is sliding backwards. It's not Biden's fault; it's Trump's ongoing legacy.
The new Delta strain of the virus requires, according to the CDC, that we go back to wearing masks inside in public places where the virus is surging, even if we're fully inoculated.
This would be nothing more than a small disappointment and inconvenience were it not for Republicans using it as another opportunity to politicize public health.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded to the new CDC recommendation with the kind of unhinged hyperbole Trumpers have perfected. "The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state," he said.
Republican politicizing of public health will get worse if the Delta variant continues to surge. At some point vaccines will have to be mandated because being inoculated is not solely a matter of personal choice. Herd immunity is a common good. If infections mount, that common good can only be achieved if nearly everyone is vaccinated.
But those eager to exploit the virus's resurgence – the know-nothings, Trump wannabe's, vilely ambitious political upstarts, Tucker Carlsons and similarly cynical entertainers – are already howling about "personal freedom" threatened by "socialism."
The investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 is further evidence of how far the Republican Party has descended into opportunistic treachery.
We need to know what happened and why if we are to have half a chance of avoiding a repeat. Just as with the history of systemic discrimination and brutality against Black people in America – which Republicans are calling "critical race theory" and trying to ban from classrooms – the truth shapes our responses to the future.
Here again, the dispiriting aspect of the present moment is Republican denial and obfuscation.
As Officer Michael Fanone – who suffered traumatic brain injury on Jan 6 when rioters attacked him – testified yesterday at the start of the hearings, "What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens — including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend — are downplaying or outright denying what happened."
With the exception of Rep. Liz Cheney – whom I never expected to hold up as a model of integrity – Republicans are eager to divert the public's attention. Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik declared at a press conference yesterday that "Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6."
This is absurd on its face. The Speaker of the House shares responsibility for Capitol security with the Senate majority leader, who at the time of the attack was Mitch McConnell. If Pelosi was negligent – and there's zero evidence she was – McConnell was as well.
Stefanik and other Republican leaders don't want the public to know about Republican members of Congress who were almost certainly involved in the travesty, either directly or indirectly. The list includes Representatives Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Andrew Biggs, and McCarthy himself. Senator Josh Hawley also seems to have been on the know, given his fist-salute to the rioters.
And then there's Trump himself, cheerleader and ringleader.
All should be subpoenaed. All, presumably, will fight the subpoenas in court.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to stage rallies for his avid followers as he did last weekend in Phoenix, where he declared "Our nation is up against the most sinister forces… This nation does not belong to them, this nation belongs to you."
Wrong. America belongs to all of us. And we all have a responsibility to protect its public health and its democratic institutions. The real sinister force is the Trump Republicans' cynical exploitation of lies and anti-scientific rubbish to divide and divert us.
Months ago, it seemed as if this darkness was behind us. It is not.
While praising the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday for passing a spending bill without the Hyde Amendment for the first time in decades, reproductive rights and justice advocates sounded the alarm over 228 congressional Republicans urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"Overturning Roe would open the floodgates to states banning abortion, put politicians in control of people's bodies, and force patients seeking healthcare across state lines."
—Planned Parenthood Action
Concerns about the fate of the landmark 1973 ruling—which affirmed the constitutional right to abortion before viability—have mounted since former President Donald Trump appointed three right-wing justices to the nation's highest court, giving conservatives a 6-3 supermajority.
The new GOP brief (pdf) comes in a case for the court's next session challenging Mississippi's ban on nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. Justices agreed to hear the case in May, a decision made in the midst of what experts called an "unprecedented" wave of attacks on reproductive rights at the state level.
"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country," Christian LoBue, chief campaigns and advocacy officer at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Bloomberg.
The filing backed by hundreds of right-wingers in Congress follows a similar brief earlier this week from Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Mo.), and Mike Lee (Utah). Several Republican governors and state attorneys general (pdf) have also filed briefs for the case.
Represented by the advocacy group Americans United for Life, the 44 senators and 184 House members—including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)—argue in their brief:
Mississippi's case provides the court a chance to release its vise grip on abortion politics, as Congress and the states have shown that they are ready and able to address the issue in ways that reflect Americans' varying viewpoints and are grounded in the science of fetal development and maternal health.
"If necessary to enable the people's representatives to further vital interests in public safety, equality, and the integrity of the medical profession," the new GOP brief states, Roe and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey "should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, wholly or partially overturned."
The court's 1992 opinion in Casey reaffirmed Roe but also upheld various anti-choice measures in Pennsylvania. Most notably, the case established the "undue burden" standard, determining that restrictions on abortion must not impose a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability."
Justices are expected to rule on Mississippi's 15-week ban, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest, by next June, just months before the midterm elections that could shift the makeup of the Democrat-controlled House and evenly divided Senate.
Responding to Thursday's brief in a pair of tweets, Planned Parenthood Action highlighted widespread support for "safe, legal abortion" across the country and warned that "overturning Roe would open the floodgates to states banning abortion."
Though it was widely expected that the high court would agree to hear an abortion restrictions case in the coming term, pro-choice advocates still warned in May that the Mississippi case could be the death knell for Roe and reiterated demands that the Democrat-led Congress and White House urgently take action on reproductive rights and healthcare, treating the 1973 standard as a floor rather than a ceiling.
Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an OB-GYN in New Jersey and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said at the time that "as a community of physicians who know that abortion is basic, essential, safe healthcare, we are extremely alarmed that the Supreme Court will review a clearly unconstitutional ban on abortion, a ban that violates 50 years of Supreme Court precedent."
The doctor continued:
As a provider of abortion care, I know that every person should have the resources and care they need to make decisions about their bodies, their families, and their futures. Mississippians already face some of the most restrictive laws preventing communities from getting the healthcare they need.
I am very concerned by this and other attacks on reproductive healthcare during a global pandemic. We should be making care more accessible, not limiting options. That is why federal legislation like Women's Health Protection Act and Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act are so important. The evidence is clear—abortion is healthcare. We should not be questioning the validity of this fact.
I urge the Supreme Court to listen to people who have abortions and to people who provide abortion care. Restrictions on abortion fall most heavily on communities who are already inequitably impacted by barriers to healthcare: Black, Brown, and Indigenous women and people capable of pregnancy, people with low incomes, people in rural communities, and LGBTQIA people.
"Allowing even more unjustified restrictions on abortion will only hurt patients," Brandi warned. "We expect the Supreme Court to follow precedent and strike down unconstitutional laws like the Mississippi ban."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an ardent Trump supporter who was the lead plaintiff in a last-ditch Supreme Court case aimed at overturning the 2020 election, appears to be backing away from his past claims of widespread election fraud. Facing discipline or even potential disbarment in Texas, Paxton now merely alleges that there were "irregularities" in battleground states, while still suggesting those could somehow have affected the overall result
Paxton's apparent retreat came earlier this month in response to an array of grievances filed by several members of the Texas bar: retired lawyer Neil Cohen; Kevin Moran, president of the Galveston Island Democrats; former Texas Court of Appeals Chief Justice David Chew; and Dr. Brynne VanHettinga. In their initial complaint, the group argued that Paxton should face professional discipline over his bid to undermine the 2020 presidential election, saying that Paxton's December petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that President Biden's victory should be set aside, was both frivolous and unethical.
In Paxton's response to their grievances, which was provided to Salon, the attorney general argued that "Texas's filings were not frivolous" because "the 2020 election suffered from significant and unconstitutional irregularities in the Defendant States." Paxton further claimed that, by this logic, he and his office "did not violate the disciplinary rules."
Paxton's response is a clear departure from his previous rhetoric, much of which explicitly supported former President Trump's grandiose conspiracy theories about systemic election fraud. Earlier this month, Paxton told a Dallas crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference that his "fight" for election security "is not done."
"When people tell you there is no election fraud, let me just tell you my office right now has 511 counts in court because of COVID waiting to be heard," Paxton continued. "We have another 386 that we're investigating. If you add those together, that's more election fraud than my office has prosecuted since it started investigating election fraud years and years ago."
Paxton is notably less bombastic in his response to the Texas bar, but mentions the same "irregularities" that his original Texas suit claimed had tainted the elections in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Effectively all of those supposed "irregularities" were changes in voting rules made in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which created significant challenges for both in-person and absentee voting.
Paxton claimed, for instance, that the Pennsylvania secretary of state "abrogated the mandatory signature verification requirement for absentee or mail-in ballots" by not rejecting ballots with mismatched signatures. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court had already found back in December that no such rule existed in Pennsylvania's election code, which "does not authorize county election boards to reject mail-in ballots based on an analysis of a voter's signature."
Paxton also alleges that the "Georgia Secretary of State unilaterally, without legislative approval, changed a statutory requirement prohibiting the opening of absentee ballots before Election Day." But these kinds of regulatory adjustments are ultimately "minor procedural changes," as Neil Cohen, one of the Texas complainants, told Salon by email. He continued, "In all these cases, the Georgia election board adopted these regulations, which are consistent with the statute, through the powers it had been granted by the state legislature."
Other "irregularities," according to Paxton, included Michigan's delivery of absentee ballots to every resident and Wisconsin's decision to allow "absentee ballots to be placed in hundreds of unstaffed drop boxes." He offered no evidence that either of these practices made any difference in the electoral outcome, much less amounted to widespread election fraud.
In an evident attempt to ward off the threat of disbarment, Paxton's response seeks to explain why the suit had any legal basis or "standing." He argues, somewhat confusingly: "Texas's assertion that it had standing in Texas v. Pennsylvania could not have been frivolous. There are no Supreme Court cases contrary to its position that it had standing."
But Paxton indirectly admits, in Cohen's view, that he had no real evidence of fraud, and apparently "hoped to develop the evidence during discovery." In other words, his entire case could be interpreted as a fishing expedition, or just an attempt to rile up the Trump base with unsupported allegations. "That's in contrast to his behavior for the month after filing the lawsuit," Cohen said, "when he repeatedly claimed the election was stolen and urged people to take action."
Earlier this month, Law.com reported that another group — this one composed entirely of attorneys, including four past presidents of the Texas bar — filed a different complaint against Paxton, claiming that his unfounded legal actions on Trump's behalf have brought "dishonor" to the legal profession. Bar authorities have been investigating Paxton since early June.
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