Republicans want Supreme Court demonstrators arrested. Is that legal?

Hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators have gathered outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and John Roberts since a draft decision reversing Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision affirming America's constitutional right to abortion, leaked. The protests – featuring signs, chants, and candle-lit vigils – have remained peaceful demonstrations. But while no threats or acts of violence have been reported in connection to these demonstrations, Republicans are already tarring them as immoral, illegal, and even terroristic, going so far as to call on the Justice Department to prosecute individuals.

This article first appeared on Salon.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said that the protesters "should be arrested for protesting in the homes of judges, jurors and prosecutors."

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"There is a federal law that prohibits the protesting of judges' homes," Cotton told NBC News. "Anybody protesting a judge's home should be arrested on the spot by federal law enforcement. If [protesters] want to raise a First Amendment defense, they are free to do so."

"The President may choose to characterize protests, riots, and incitements of violence as mere passion," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, echoed in a Wednesday letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. "But these attempts to influence and intimidate members of the federal judiciary are an affront to judicial independence."

The Republican governors of both Virginia and Maryland, where the three justices' homes are located, have also joined the chorus, urging Garland to "provide appropriate resources to safeguard the justices and enforce the law as it is written."

Even some Democrats came forward to condemn the demonstrations, including most notably Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who this week went so far as to call the protests "reprehensible."

"Stay away from the homes and families of elected officials and members of the court," Durbin told CNN. "You can express yourself, exercise your First Amendment rights, but to go after them at their homes, to do anything of a threatening nature, certainly anything violent, is absolutely reprehensible."

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To make their case, Republican pundits and politicians have for the most part hung their hat on an esoteric legal statute, first enacted in 1950, that makes it illegal to picket or parade "in or near a building or residence occupied or used by [a] judge, juror, witness, or court officer" with "the intent of influencing [that] judge." The statute, 18 U.S. Code § 1507, is seemingly designed to protect members of the judiciary from protests that might obstruct justice through fear or intimidation and was first enacted as part of the "Internal Security Act of 1950," a McCarthy-era law that sought to address fears that communism was creeping into the judiciary.

Historically, the courts have hewed closely to laws that protect juries and justices from any outside political influences, as Law & Crime noted. Still, the legality of the protests remains something of an open question.

Alvin B. Tillery, Jr., an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, told Salon that it's unlikely this week's demonstrations would be ruled illegal under 18 U.S. Code § 1507.

"I always have read [that statute] as 'impeding the officers ability to get to the court, or from the court to take part in proceedings' ... or terrorizing them with loudspeakers in front of their houses," he explained in an interview. "There's really no interpretation by which one could say that [the protests are] untoward or illegal in my understanding of the law and the Constitution and the history of protest in our country."

Anuj C. Desai, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin, expressed a little more doubt, arguing that the statute could be applied. But still, he added, very little case law in the U.S. has actually ventured into the territory of the situation at hand.

"I think if [the protesters] did get prosecuted, there would be reasonable arguments about the interpretation of the statute that have not played out in the courts."

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One pertinent legal case, Desai said, is Cox v. Louisiana, a 1965 case in which the Supreme Court affirmed a state law that made picketing before a courthouse illegal. The case specifically centered on Benjamin Elton Cox, a civil rights activist who was convicted of disturbing the peace after organizing a thousands-strong march outside of a Baton Rouge courthouse. The facts around Cox v. Louisiana "were relatively sympathetic" for the protestors, DeSai said, "and the Supreme Court still said [Louisiana's statute] is carefully drawn."

Another past case that stands out, as The Washington Post notes, is Frisby v. Schultz, which stems from a 1988 picket organized in Brookfield, Wisconsin by two anti-abortion activists outside the home of an abortion doctor. Both activists claimed that a town ordinance banning the demonstration violated their First Amendment rights. Citing "a special benefit of the privacy all citizens enjoy within their own walls," the Supreme Court ultimately upheld the ordinance, arguing goals of the protests could be achieved through other means of communication.

"I do not believe that picketing for the sole purpose of imposing psychological harm on a family in the shelter of their home is constitutionally protected," wrote then-Justice John Paul Stevens, adding that there is "little justification for allowing them to remain in front of his home and repeat it over and over again simply to harm the doctor and his family."

Apart from local ordinances, like Wisconsin's, a judge might also consider state codes. This strategy could prove especially successful in Virginia and Maryland, both of whose criminal statutes put a strong emphasis on the preservation of the home as a place of tranquility.

"The practice of picketing before or about residences and dwelling places causes emotional disturbance and distress to the occupants," states the Maryland criminal code. "The purpose of this practice is to harass the occupants of the residences and dwelling places."

Virginia statutory law imposes a similar restriction: "Any person who shall engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling place of any individual, or who shall assemble with another person or persons in a manner which disrupts or threatens to disrupt any individual's right to tranquility in his home, shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor."

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All a prosecutor would need to do, then, under Virginia or Maryland law is establish that the demonstrations disrupted the tranquility within Alito, Kavanaugh, or Roberts' homes.

But if prosecutors were to argue that the demonstrations violated 18 U.S. Code § 1507, they would have to establish that the protesters intended to distress these three justices – a task which would likely require a lot of heavy lifting, suggested Sheila Bedi, a clinical professor of law at Northwestern University.

"A prosecutor could look at things like notices of the protest, if there's any social media posts, but again, I think it's highly unlikely that anybody out there protesting really believes that Justice Alito is going to change his opinion as a result of the protests. And because of that, I think anybody who was charged under the statute would have a strong defense," Bedi said. "I think the reality is that the movement has known that this was a possibility for a long time because of the organizing that happened on the right. And this is about harnessing the political moment far more than it is about trying to influence the judges."

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Desai likewise said that prosecutors would be bedeviled with "proof problems" relating to mens rea, or the state of mind protesters were in during the demonstrations. "This one just looks like it would be that aspect of it that would be hard to prove," Desai said.

Thus far, the Justice Department has not signaled that it will be pursuing legal action against any of the demonstrators, and there have been no arrests at this point. Department spokesperson Anthony Coley on Wednesday said that the agency "continues to be briefed on security matters related to the Supreme Court and Supreme Court justices.

Georgia election official allowed conspiracist to breach voting system in search of 'fraud': report

A former Georgia county elections supervisor opened her offices to an election-denying businessman shortly after the 2020 presidential election, granting access to voting equipment that election-deniers claim was vital to rigging the election, according to a Washington Post report.

Misty Hampton told the Post that she cannot remember when the walkthrough took place or what was done during the visit but recalled giving access to Scott Hall, the owner of a Georgia bail bond business.

"I'm not a babysitter," she reportedly said of her past role in the Coffee County office.

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In an interview with Post, Hampton said that she was unaware that the visit might contravene the state's guidance barring voting equipment from being released to the public.

"I don't see why anything that is dealing with elections is not open to the public," Hampton said. "Why would you want to hide anything?"

Even though Donald Trump had won the county by a 40-point margin, many election officials "voiced suspicions of fraud" after the 2020 election, according to the Post. Hampton reportedly spread the baseless notion that "rogue" administrators might have tampered with the ballots in order to give then-President-elect Biden a bigger edge.

Hall's visit first came under federal scrutiny as part of a months-old lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, which calls into question the integrity of Georgia's election system. Court documents related to the suit reportedly reveal a March 2021 call between Hall and Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, during which Hall told Marks that he chartered a plane to transport people to Coffee County in order to copy voting data.

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The group reportedly "went in there and imaged every hard drive of every piece of equipment," Hall said in the phone conversation. "We basically had the entire elections committee there," he added. "And they said: 'We give you permission. Go for it.'"

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According to the Post, Hall and Hampton were accompanied by one county elections board member, Eric Chaney, during their visit.

On January 6, 2021, during the Capitol insurrection, Hampton reportedly texted Chaney that Hall was considering analyzing "our ballots from the general election like we talked about the other day."

Chaney's lawyers told the Post that the elections officer does not know Hall and did not take part in any visit where people "illegally accessed the server or the room in which it is contained."

By May of that year, after Hampton had been fired over a separate offense, her replacement, James Barnes, found a business card belonging to Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that led a carnivalesque "forensic audit" of the election in Arizona's Maricopa County. After Barnes sent an email regarding the business card to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, state officials replaced the elections server in Coffee County with a new one. Last month, attorneys for Raffensperger claimed that a former elections official reportedly changed the password for the old server, rendering it impossible for other officials to gain access.

Hampton's office tour is just the latest in a pattern of improprieties by GOP election officials at the state and local level. As the Washington Post notes, suspected and attempted breaches in election security have prompted multiple investigations in states like Ohio, Colorado, and Michigan.

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Two Pennsylvania GOP staffers fired over alleged illegal 'ballot harvesting' operation: report

A pair of Pennsylvania GOP staffers were fired after allegedly orchestrating a potential "ballot harvesting" scheme, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

C.J. Parker, 24, and Shamus O'Donnell, 27, and were both sacked after allegedly sending dozens of ballots to a P.O. box associated with a Republican political action committee known as the Republican Registration Coalition. The PAC's chairman, Billy Lanzilotti, told the Inquirer that he had intended to hand deliver the ballots to voters himself.

"I didn't do anything that to my understanding was against the law," Lanzilotti told the outlet, arguing that he was trying to help voters. "There's been a number of problems with the post office lately," he added. "Checks are being stolen out of the mail. They like it this way because I'm someone they trust."

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Ballot harvesting, which involves having a third-party collect or distribute ballots on behalf of voters, is strictly banned in Pennsylvania except to assist voters with disabilities. State law mandates that voters fill out and deliver their ballots themselves unless they've provided authorization for someone else to perform both tasks for them.

According to the Inquirer, only one of the voters whose ballots were collected by the Republican Registration Coalition had actually received their ballot. Many of the voters did not reportedly remember signing off on having their ballots collected or distributed by the PAC. The Inquirer also reported that there is no indication that Lanzilotti attempted to tamper with the ballots in question.

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O'Donnell's attorney, Matt Wolfe, said that his client had "no knowledge of the mail ballot applications and what Billy Lanzilotti was doing," noting that O'Donnell simply served as the PAC's treasurer.

Republican state Rep. Seth Grove, chairman of the House State Government Committee, said that the incident "is nothing more than ballot harvesting."

"If Gov. Tom Wolf had not vetoed the Voting Rights Protection Act without reading it, this alleged ballot harvesting scheme would not have happened," he added.

The incident is just the latest in a series of GOP-related voting scandals in recent months. Back in April, two Republican voters from Florida's famed retirement community, The Villages, admitted to filing ballots in two different states.

Meanwhile, Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's former chief of staff, is under a state investigation for alleged voter fraud in North Carolina. Meadows reportedly registered to vote in what has been called a "dive trailer" in rural North Carolina, but there's no indication that he's spent a single night there, The New Yorker reported.

Election officials in Colorado now wearing bulletproof vests following threats from pro-Trump groups

Colorado is reportedly being targeted an election fraud hotspot by various pro-Trump groups who believe that 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, according to ABC News.

On Monday, the outlet reported that election officials in the Centennial State have been wearing bulletproof vests and have undergone active shooter preparedness training in response to the possibility of right-wing violence.

Colorado county clerk Josh Zygielbaum told ABC that "the potential for violence that we face is very real."

In Adams County, where Zygielbaum works, election facilities are currently under security review by the Department of Homeland Security. The county is also working jointly with the local, state, and federal authorities to ensure that employees remain safe.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, told ABC News that various counties have been gifted $130,000 to fortify various facilities where election officials work.

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Clerk Paul López, whose Denver-based office had to be relocated over security concerns since it was on the first floor, told the outlet that "folks who think they can intimidate election workers and try to stop us from being able to do our job are absolutely incorrect."

"We will defend our democracy, and we will do it in a way that inspires people to come to the polls and not scare them away," he added.

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Another clerk, Lori Mitchell from Chaffee, said that she's received numerous threats and at one point thought she was about to get shot.

"I saw somebody lay their right hand over their left arm and pull what looked like a gun to me," Mitchell told the outlet. "It ended up being a squirt gun," she added, "but it was still one of the most frightening days of my life."

Conspiracies around Colorado's election security appear to stem from the recent rhetoric of Tina Peters, a right-wing Mesa County clerk who was arrested by authorities for recording an election proceeding and lying to a judge about it. Peters, who announced back in February that she's running to oust Griswold in 2022, has been one of the most vocal election deniers in recent months. Last summer, Peters attended a "cyber symposium" hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, another vociferous election denier.

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Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, told ABC News that the Centennial State is "one of the current epicenters of the Stop the Steal movement."

"And so we are concerned and very worried about the influence and pressure being put on election officials," Crane added. "They are incredibly understaffed and overworked, and now they have to deal with the emotional toll that comes from knowing that you have to do things to protect yourself."

Last month, state lawmakers approved a measure to bar state residents from openly carrying guns into polling locations in order to prevent intimidation.

Protest erupts at school after teacher gets abruptly fired for showing support to bullied teen

Middle school students in Pennsylvania are protesting the dismissal of a teacher who reportedly provided them with a hotline for LGBTQ+ students as a resource to draw upon.

Students of Doylestown's Lenape Middle School protested outside the building on Tuesday, calling on the school to reinstate social studies teacher Andrew Burgess, according to Channel 9. Burgess' sudden firing came on Friday, shortly after the eighth grade teacher reportedly gave a transgender student, who was being bullied, resources for support outside the district.

"It was kind of like a slap in the face to everyone that would go to him and stuff for, because I would consistently go to him for when I was being bullied and harassed within our school," said one of the student demonstrators.

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"It was simply a hotline number, just in case the person needed help," said another.

One protester told Channel 9 that Burgess is "one of the biggest allies of this school," saying that he "supports all students in every way, and a lot of people go to him."

As of this writing, nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition to have Burgess rehired by the school administration.

"Mr.burgess [sic] a Lenape middle school history teacher has been suspended with pay pending a further investigation for giving a trans student a phone number to call if they felt unsafe or bullied," the petition states. "Make no mistake this is an act of homophobia and needs [sic] he needs to be re instated right away."

The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) confirmed to Channel 9 that Burgess has been put on administrative leave.

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On Tuesday, the superintendent of the Central Bucks School District, Abe Lucabaugh attempted to dispute that Burgess was fired for being LGBTQ+.

"There is a narrative out there that the district has punished an employee for being a supporter of LGBTQ+ students," Lucabaugh said. "That narrative is offensive and false."

"I care very deeply about how kids feel, and we want to do a better job with it, but that narrative does not help," the superintendent added in an interview with the Courier Times.

Burgess' dismissal appears to be part of a broader national trend of public school teachers being fired for speaking to students on matters of race, gender, and sexuality.

Just last week, a Florida teacher was let go for telling students she was pansexual after they asked her about her sexuality, according to NBC News. And last month, a gay substitute teacher was fired for handing out Pride bracelets to high school students.

Conservatives turn on GOP darling Glenn Youngkin over Supreme Court protests Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is getting pummeled over his apparent failure to respond to the recent pro-choice protests outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

The protests first sparked this past weekend, just days after Politico revealed that the Supreme Court informally voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the watershed 1973 ruling that enshrined America's constitutional right to abortion. On Monday, a group of around 150 demonstrators marched from a strip mall in Fairfax Virginia to Alito's home, hoisting signs and chanting slogans like "When mothers' lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back" and "Keep abortion safe and legal," according to NBC News.

Youngkin said that his office has been "coordinating" with the Fairfax County Police Department and the Virginia State Police, to "ensure that there isn't violence."

"Virginia State Police were closely monitoring, fully coordinated with Fairfax County and near the protests," he added.

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But that posture did not sit well with conservative commentators, many of whom argued that Youngkin should have swept the protesters for what they felt was a clear violation of federal law.

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"The protest itself - without violence - is illegal," tweeted Yossi Gestetner, the founder of Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. "What level of illegality is ok for you before moving from "monitoring" the intimidation to stepping in?"

"Antifa just crossed into a Republican-lead state and were allowed to target Alito's family home. Glenn Youngkin did nothing," echoed right-wing commentator Jack Posobiec.

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Will Chamberlain, Senior Counsel at the Internet Accountability Project, suggested that the demonstrators should be imprisoned. "You know what will stop leftists from protesting at people's private homes and intimidating their families?" he asked. "JAIL."

Right-wing lawyer Matthew Kolken even claimed that the protests constituted a form of "terrorism."

"Democrats use terrorism as a tool, and Youngkin failed to send a clear message that it won't be tolerated in Virginia," Kolken tweeted.

In arguing the protests are illegal, numerous right-wing commentators have adduced 18 U.S.C. 1507, which states that anyone "with the intent of influencing any judge … in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

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'Clean up your mess': Cops called to home of Sen. Susan Collins over chalk protest

Police were called on Saturday to investigate a pro-choice abortion message written outside the home of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who commentators on the left say is partly responsible for the Supreme Court's impending recession of America's constitutional right to abortion.

Authorities arrived at Collins' home at 9:20 AM to investigate a message written on the sidewalk just outside the senator's house, according to The Bangor Daily News. "Susie, please, Mainers want WHPA —–> vote yes, clean up your mess," the message reportedly read.

Police said that the message was "not overtly threatening" and was erased by Monday.

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"We are grateful to the Bangor police officers and the City public works employee who responded to the defacement of public property in front of our home," Collins said.

The message comes just a week after a bombshell report by Politico, which obtained a leaked majority draft opinion revealing that the Supreme Court has already informally voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling establishing America's constitutional right to abortion. That report, published last Monday, drew immediate condemnation from Democrats, progressives, and abortion advocates alike.

After the ruling, many left-leaning commentators specifically rebuked Collins for her past support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who Collins said promised to not overturn Roe during his confirmation process. Collins, who is now under fire over that claim, has since said that she is "shocked" Kavanaugh would "ever lie to a woman."

This past weekend, in protest of the court's impending reversal of Roe, hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators gathered outside the homes of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Kavanaugh in protest of the report. Conservative pundits and politicians dubiously accused the gatherings of being violent and illegal, citing the 18 U.S.C. 1507, which states that anyone "with the intent of influencing any judge … in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

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On Monday, the Senate quickly passed a bipartisan bill to shore up security for the Supreme Court in light of the demonstrations. The bill, approved by unanimous consent, provides the court and its family members with an around-the-clock security detail.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who co-sponsored the measure, said in a statement that he was "glad to see this bipartisan bill unanimously pass the Senate in order to extend security protection to the families of Supreme Court members."

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Why the right-wing is having a complete meltdown over the Supreme Court's leaked anti-abortion draft

Conservatives are doing a victory lap in light of a recent report that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing the constitutional right to abortion, while at the same time seemingly having a complete meltdown about the potential impact of its release.

The bombshell report came late Monday evening, when Politico published a leaked draft of Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion, written back in February, rehashing the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. According to the outlet, the draft is "a full-throated, unflinching repudiation" of both laws.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Alito reportedly wrote in his opinion. "We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled."

This week, conservative pundits and politicians immediately praised the controversial draft, which culminates a decades-long campaign by Republicans to roll back reproductive rights all across the nation.

On Monday, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a vehement anti-abortion advocate, called the court's alleged draft "a heck of an opinion."

"Voluminously researched, tightly argued, and morally powerful," he tweeted.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem vowed to call a special session in support of the potential decision's rollout.

"If this report is true and Roe v. Wade is overturned, I will immediately call for a special session to save lives and guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota," the governor tweeted.

Other conservatives railed against the leak of draft, arguing that the move impugns the court's apparent nonpartisanship.

"Leaking a draft SCOTUS ruling is worse than January 6th. The Court was the one institution where conservatives and liberals lived in peace and trust," wrote right-wing commentator Mike Cernovich. "You disagreed but the trust was sacred. This completely destroys the Court's inner workings. Totally in shock right now."

"To violate an understanding that has held for the entire modern history of the Court – seeking to place outside political pressure on the Court and the justices themselves – is dangerous, despicable, and damaging," echoed Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., suggested the draft's leak was a coordinated assault by the left. "The next time you hear the far left preaching about how they are fighting to preserve our Republic's institutions & norms remember how they leaked a Supreme Court opinion in an attempt to intimidate the justices on abortion," Rubio wrote.

Politico's report does not mark the first time that the draft of any pending Supreme Court case has been publicized before a ruling is made. While the draft offers an unprecedented glimpse into the bench's deliberations, which the court has historically kept strictly confidential, it is important to note that the original Roe v. Wade decision was similarly released, infuriating the court.

The most recent draft, no doubt a strong indication of the court's jurisprudence on abortion, is sure to set back the state of reproductive healthcare in America by a matter of decades. According to the Guttmacher Institute, If Roe v. Wade is overturned, at least 26 states will severely curtail abortion access or outlaw the practice altogether.

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Republicans' rush to block Biden from forgiving student debt backfires

Over the last two years, Republicans argued that President Biden, who made a campaign promise to cancel student debt, does not have legal authority to fulfill that pledge, insisting that the tens of millions of Americans currently crushed by student loans should be forced to pay them down. But now, amid new reports that Biden is considering a partial jubilee, Republicans are backing a bill that would prevent the president from pulling the trigger – a tacit acknowledgment Biden appears to have the power to finally make good on his promise.

On Wednesday, five Senate Republicans introduced the "Stop Reckless Student Loans Action Act," a measure that would end Biden's ability to continue suspending debt payments (for debtholders of a certain income) and prohibit the president from canceling the debt altogether in the case of a national emergency.

The bill's sponsors – Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Roger Marshall, R-Kansas – have attempted to frame the measure as a bulwark for American taxpayers.

"As Americans continue to return to the workforce more than two years since the pandemic began, it is time for borrowers to resume repayment of student debt obligations," Thune said in a statement. "Taxpayers and working families should not be responsible for continuing to bear the costs associated with this suspension of repayment. This common-sense legislation would protect taxpayers and prevent President Biden from suspending federal student loan repayments in perpetuity."

Braun has meanwhile claimed that a jubilee would force people without college degrees to "pick up the tab" for graduates.

"This transfer of wealth is not a move to 'advance equity,' but rather a taxpayer handout to appease far-left activists," he said.

The Republican-led measure comes just weeks after Biden extended his student loan repayment pause for the sixth time over the course of his administration. According to the Federal Reserve, Biden has saved borrowers, who hold roughly $1.7 trillion debt, about $5 billion in interest a month. Those savings have been a lifeline for over 40 million student debtholders, 11.1% of whose loans prior to the pandemic were in default or delinquent by at least 90 days.

Toward the beginning of Biden's presidency, many Republicans and establishment Democrats were adamant that the president could not forgive student debt by executive order. Some experts suggested that only Congress could rubber-stamp such a move, in part because it was the legislature – not the president – that appropriated the funds loaned out to borrowers.

But now, with the GOP waging a pre-emptive counteroffensive amid reports that Biden might relieve the debt, there's more reason to believe that the president has that very authority, as The American Prospect's David Dayen wrote this week.

"There would be no need for such [the GOP's] bill if there was not already authority granted by Congress to the executive branch to suspend, defer, or cancel student loan payments," Dayen argued. "The bill represents an effort to claw that authority back, or at the very least clarify the statute to remove all doubt."

Republicans appear to be targeting provisions contained within the HEROES Act of 2003, an amendment to the Higher Education Act that "allows the secretary of education to waive or modify any requirement or regulation applicable to the student financial assistance programs" in a time of national emergency.

The Stop Reckless Student Loans Action Act would prohibit the president from using the HEROES Act to pause repayments for any longer than 90 days. It would also means-test these pauses and make them subject to the Congressional Review Act, an esoteric law that allows the legislature to overturn actions taken by federal agencies, like the Department of Education.

To be sure, it's unlikely that the Stop Reckless Student Loans Action Act will be approved by a Democratic-majority Senate, paving the way for Biden to leverage the HEROES act without opposition. But even then, Biden will undoubtedly face a deluge of legal challenges, which could stop a jubilee in its tracks.

At present, very little legal precedent exists on whether Biden has the unilateral power to forgive student debt. No president before him has attempted the move, and "no court has considered where the outer boundaries of the Secretary's HEROES Act authorities lie," as the Congressional Research Services wrote last year.

Luke Herrine, Yale Law Ph.D. who has studied the legality around a potential jubilee, describes the predicament as "a vague terrain."

"Who would sue? I mean, that's the real question," Herrine said. "The [debt] servicers are probably the most plausible, but there are a number of problems with them having standing [...] They are not guaranteed any amounts of payments under their contracts with the Department of Education, so it's not really clear what their claim is."

There's also the question of whether sweeping debt relief would qualify as a mere "modification" or "waiver," as the Congressional Research Services noted. In the 1992 case MCI Telecommunications Corp. v. AT&T, the Supreme Court declined to defer to the Federal Communications Commission's interpretation of what the company felt was a modification to its tariff policies.

"If a court deemed the HEROES Act sufficiently analogous to the statute in MCI, it might conclude that the power to 'modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the' Title IV programs likewise does not authorize the Secretary to make fundamental changes to statutes or regulations," the Congressional Research Services wrote.

And all of this legal analysis, Herrin said, will have to be weighed against the "political calculus" of issuing a jubilee whose economic implications are still ill-defined.

"First of all, do we think this is good policy? Is it regressive or is it progressive? Is it good politically?" Herrine explained. "I think that's the calculus that's really changed over the past few months."

Biden's pause on student debt repayments is set to expire on August 31. On Monday, Biden indicated to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he is open to both extending the repayment suspension and wiping away a portion of the debt, according to The Washington Post.

"I feel very confident that he is pushing on his team to do something, and to do something significant," Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., a member of the caucus, told the Post. "That's my feeling.

Marjorie Taylor Greene rebuked by right-wing Christians for attack on Catholic Church

Conservative Christians are quickly piling on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who this week accused churches that help resettle undocumented immigrants of being controlled by Satan.

Prominent right-wing pundits and Catholic organizations alike castigated the freshman GOP congresswoman from Georgia.

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called Greene "a disgrace," saying that "she slandered the entire Catholic Church."

"Satan is controlling the Catholic Church? She needs to apologize to Catholics immediately," Donohue said in the statement. "We are contacting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about this matter. He's got a loose cannon on his hands."

Donohue's remarks are in reaction to an interview Greene gave with the Church Militant, a Christian news organization, last week, first reported on by Salon's Kathryn Joyce.

"The church is not doing its job, and it's not adhering to the teachings of Christ," she claimed, speaking of churches that help undocumented people.

Her comments drew immediate backlash from a number of conservative religious leaders, including the right-wing radio host Erick Erickson.

"It is inexcusable to accuse the Christian community of being controlled by Satan for stepping up to help immigrants, illegal aliens, and refugees the United States government, not the church, has allowed into this country," Erickson tweeted.

James J. Martin SJ, a priest and the editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, also condemned the freshman lawmaker.

"Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks the Catholic Church is controlled by Satan. She also believes that caring for the stranger is 'perverting the Gospel,'" Martin tweeted. "Jesus disagrees, saying that caring for the stranger *is* the Gospel (Mt 25). I'll side with Jesus."

Greene, herself a Christian, has since walked back her remarks, claiming that she was rebuking church leadership rather than the Catholic Church writ large.

"I refuse to use kinder, gentler language as Bill Donohue might prefer when I talk about his disgusting and corrupt friends, who have made him rich with the donations from ordinary churchgoing Catholics," she added.

It isn't the first time Greene has made controversial remarks about religion. Back in December, the Georgia Republican expressed a desire to "restore" America's Christian principles. That same month, Greene denounced Kwanza as a "fake religion created by a psychopath."

Trump regrets: Boeing CEO now says it was wrong to spend billions on new Air Force One

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told investors on Wednesday that he regrets striking a deal with Donald Trump to build the former president's Air Force One plane, saying that the company "probably" shouldn't have agreed upon the terms.

"Air Force One I'm just going to call a very unique moment, a very unique negotiation, a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn't have taken," Calhoun said on a call with analysts. "But we are where we are, and we're going to deliver great airplanes," Calhoun said, shortly after Boeing reported a loss for the first quarter of 2022."

"And we're going to recognize the costs associated with it," he added.

The deal involved the construction of two replacement aircrafts for the Trump administration as part of a $3.9 billion contract signed between Trump and Boeing in 2018. According to Calhoun, the company has lost $1.2 billion as a result of the agreement and was forced to take a $660 million write-down for Air Force One.

"Yes, they were written off the day we took them, knowing that we would be investing a fair amount of our own money," the executive explained.

The deal was originally cut by then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg. (Calhoun, who was sitting on the company's board at the time, took over as CEO in January 2020.)

It was structured as a fixed-price contract that put the company at risk of internalizing costs that rose as a result of the current supply chain crisis.

At the time the deal was announced, Boeing said that it was "proud to build the next generation of Air Force One, providing American presidents with a flying White House at outstanding value to taxpayers." The Trump administration has also claimed that the contract would save taxpayers over $1.4 billion.

"Air Force One is going to be incredible," Trump echoed at the time. "It's going to be top of the line, the top of the world."

However, that promise has yet to bear out.

Last year, the company sued a subcontractor over alleged delays in the project, which remains underway in San Antonio, Texas. A recent Air Force report predicted that a U.S. president may not step foot in them until 2026.

Journalist blasted by Los Angeles sheriff for exposing department's alleged coverup

A Los Angeles Times reporter is being investigated by the county's sheriff's department after revealing an attempted coverup of misconduct by officers.

The shocking announcement came on Tuesday during a presser held by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who displayed a blownup photo of reporter Alene Techekmedyian, who he alleged is connected to an information leak. Villanueva reportedly refused to take questions from Techekmedyian during the presser.

NPR correspondent Frank Stolze, who covers criminal justice in Los Angeles, called the move "an extraordinary escalation in the sheriff's attack not only on the paper but also on the First Amendment."

Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida similarly condemned the sheriff's presser as "outrageous," noting that the "attempt to criminalize news reporting goes against well-established constitutional law."

The probe comes in direct response to a Monday exposé by Techekmedyian, which revealed that the department attempted to cover up an incident in which a deputy put his knee on a handcuffed inmate for three minutes. Department officials were reportedly concerned about the agency's public image, given the incident's "nature and its similarities to widely publicized George Floyd use of force," according to an internal force review.

The incident reportedly took place on March 21, 2021, according to The Los Angeles Times, during the trial of Derek Chauvin, who murdered 46-year-old George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly ten minutes. It began when former Deputy Douglas Johnson ordered one of two inmates, Enzo Escalante, 24, to stop and face a wall. Escalante, who was awaiting trial on murder charges, shortly turned around and struck Johnson in the head. About thirty seconds into the brawl, Johnson pinned Escalante to the ground, kneeling on his neck. By that point, Escalante appears to be fully complying with Johnson's orders while on the ground.

In the ensuing weeks, Johnson's apparent misconduct went through various layers of review.

In one review of the incident, Commander Allen Castellano, wrote that Johnson "placed other deputies and inmates in a dangerous situation."

"There appeared to be ample time for Deputy Johnson to reposition himself and still control Inmate Escalante, who was handcuffed and hobbled, while maintaining awareness of his surroundings," Castellano said.

According to The Los Angeles Times, a number of other department officials agreed with Castellano's general sentiment, calling Johnson's restraint "unreasonable."

Custody Investigative Services, which handles crimes that take place in the department's lockups, reportedly opted out of pressing charges over concerns about optics.

"It was determined the case should not be filed given the misconduct/unreasonable force allegation and the potential for this incident to shed negative light on the Department given its nature and its similarities to widely publicized George Floyd use of force," Castellano wrote, noting that "the potential optics of an incident should not be a determining factor on whether or not a criminal complaint is filed."

Villenueva, who heads the department and is running for reelection, reportedly watched a video of the incident days after it took place, but did not formally investigate Johnson.

"We have no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporters," he said in a statement. "We will conduct a thorough investigation regarding the unlawful disclosure of evidence and documentation in an active criminal case. The multiple active investigations stemming from this incident will be shared and monitored by an outside law enforcement entity."

House to hold hearing on Ginni Thomas' text messages to Mark Meadows ahead of 1/6

A House panel is gearing up to hold an official hearing on the trove of text messages sent by right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows leading up to the Capitol riot.

The hearing is set to be conducted on Wednesday, according to The Hill, which obtained copies of a related memo sent by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., the chairman of the House Judiciary courts subcommittee. The memo, distributed by members of the committee, reportedly details the code of conduct expected to be upheld by judges outside the courtroom as well as the procedures that would be involved in impeachment proceedings for a Supreme Court justice.

The hearing comes amid intense public scrutiny of Ginni Thomas' role attempting to overturn the 2020 election. Back in February, The New York Times revealed that Ginni Thomas helped draft a scheme to reverse the election as part of her work with the conservative Council for National Policy. She also repeatedly urged Meadows via text to ramp up Donald Trump's baseless theory of election election fraud, according to The Washington Post.

"Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!," she wrote to him in November 2020. "You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America's constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History."

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RELATED: Lawless: Clarence Thomas and his wife's texts expose Supreme Court's missing ethics rules

Numerous ethics experts and dozens of lawmakers have expressed concerns that Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from multiple cases that his wife lobbies on. In one case, Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter on a decision that prevented the former president from blocking Congress' access to January 6 records.

In March, the select committee investigating the insurrection opened a formal probe into Ginni Thomas' text exchanges with Meadows.

Clarence Thomas' impeachment would be relatively unprecedented. Only one Supreme Court justice, Abe Fortas in 1969, has ever resigned for breaching the court's code of conduct. In the past, wrote Johnson, "threats or inquiries of impeachment as a means of regulating the conduct of Supreme Court justices have had varying effects."

Still, Johnson's memo did note that the idea for a heightened ethical standard for the Supreme Court has become more popular "following the reporting about text messages between the spouse of an associate justice and the then-White House Chief of Staff."

RELATED: "Extraordinary level of corruption": Legal experts shocked by Ginni Thomas' QAnon texts

"The Supreme Court has long operated as though it were above the law. But, Justice Clarence Thomas' refusal to recuse himself from cases surrounding January 6th, despite his wife's involvement, raises serious ethical — and legal — alarm bells," Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., vice chair of the House Judiciary courts subcommittee, told The Hill. "The need for strong, enforceable ethics laws is clearer than ever. We have to do more to hold the Court accountable and restore public trust through a binding code of ethics and recusal."

Explosive Mark Meadows texts turn up the heat on Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rick Perry

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., urged former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to have former President Donald Trump declare martial law after his 2020 election loss in order to keep the former president in office.

Her plea, first reported by CNN, came January 17, weeks after the Capitol riot, when Greene texted Meadows that she and a number of Republicans felt that declaring a police state was "the only way to save our Republic."

"In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law," she wrote to him. "I don't know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!"

Meadows reportedly did not respond to the message.

The shocking revelation comes just days after Greene was forced to testify in trial about her actions and rhetoric leading up to the Capitol riot. In one exchange during the proceeding last week, Greene was asked whether she called on Meadows to have Trump declare martial law.

"I don't recall," she responded. "I don't remember."

That response was, more or less, carried through the entire proceeding, with Greene claiming that she doesn't remember saying things for which there is documented proof.

In another exchange during the trial, Greene suggested that the January 6 insurrection was orchestrated by Black Lives Matter and Antifa. But according to Monday's newly unearthed texts, Greene privately pleaded with Meadows to have Trump ask the rioters to stand down, indicating that she knew the riot was led by Trump supporters.

"Mark I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people This isn't the way to solve anything," Greene wrote at the time.

Greene's texts to Meadows reportedly came just weeks after a "heated" December meeting in the Oval Office, wherein numerous Trump aides clashed with some of the former president's most ardent election deniers, including ex-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell and Michael Flynn, Trump's national security advisor.

During the meeting, CNN reported, Flynn also suggested that Trump invoke martial law in order to overturn the 2020 election. But numerous Trump aides reportedly pushed back on the idea, deeming it too extreme.

Hours before the election was called, former Trump Cabinet member and Texas Republican governor Rick Perry texted Meadows: "We have the data driven program that can clearly show where the fraud was committed. This is the silver bullet." Perry has previously denied such participation, but according to CNN, Meadows' trove included "one text message signed by Rick Perry, sent from Rick Perry's cell phone, with Rick Perry's phone number, saying 'This sort of thing is my bag.'"

Madison Cawthorn called out for 'lying' in new ad funded by Republican senator's super PAC

A super PAC associated with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. accused Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., of "lying" about his past in a new political ad released just last week.

"Madison Cawthorn lied about being accepted to the Naval Academy to get elected," the 30-second spot, first reported by Axios, narrated. "Now, Cawthorn's been caught lying about conservatives. In perpetual pursuit of celebrity, Cawthorn will lie about anything."

"An attention-seeking embarrassment, Cawthorn's antics help him but hurt us. Lying about conservatives, stolen valor, Madison Cawthorn lies for the limelight," it added.

The ad, which reportedly cost the senator $310,000, was released on YouTube last Thursday, and references a number of the freshman congressman's dubious claims about his past – most notably that he was accepted into the Naval Academy before becoming paralyzed in a 2014 car accident.

The ad also suggests Cawthorn "lied about conservatives," an apparent allusion to the congressman's recent allegations that he'd been invited to orgies by several of his GOP role models. Those remarks earned the young conservative much scorn from much of his party. Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., firmly claimed that Cawthorn had "lost my trust."

Tillis has endorsed Cawthorn's primary opponent, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who has also been backed by a number of other Republicans, including North Carolina state Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

"Madison Cawthorn has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives, and voters now have several well-qualified candidates to choose from who would be a significant improvement," Tillis said last month.

Last week, Cawthorn, staunch religious conservative, took a beating over recently-surfaced photos of him wearing lingerie in what appeared to be a party setting. The photos were first reported by Politico.

After the pictures were released, Cawthorn suggested that they were part of a left-wing smear campaign.

"I guess the left thinks goofy vacation photos during a game on a cruise (taken waaay before I ran for Congress) is going to somehow hurt me?" he tweeted. "They're running out of things to throw at me … Share your most embarrassing vacay pics in the replies."

Cawthorn is facing a crowded field of re-election opponents, with seven GOP candidates in the running.