‘Completely wacko’ MAGA rioter faces 63 to 78 months in prison for spraying Capitol cops with chemicals

A Texas man described to the FBI by witnesses as “a "huge white supremacist" and a "complete wacko" has pleaded guilty to assaulting officers with a deadly weapon during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Daniel Ray Caldwell, 51, of The Colony, Texas, entered a guilty plea that recommends a sentencing range of 63 to 78 months in prison, plus fines, under federal sentencing guidelines. That is subject to the determination of a federal judge when Caldwell is sentenced on February 1, 2023.

Video shows Caldwell pepper spraying officers who were trying to hold back the mob that day on the Capitol steps. The guilty plea indicated that injuries to officers was one of the factors enhancing the punishment range.

One of the witnesses who reported Caldwell to the FBI had met Caldwell while playing “Airsoft Military Simulation (MilSim), which is a live-action, in person simulation of armed conflict scenarios conducted by civilians that involve airsoft plastic projectiles launched be replica weapons, but do not involve actual firearms.”

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But in Caldwell’s case, the witness said, “he would bring a real firearm to the course and had to be corrected on multiple occasions to return the firearm to his vehicle.” And there was this:

“(The witness) described the individual as a “huge white supremacist” and was “a complete wacko.” In a video taken after the riot, Caldwell said officers sprayed him with chemicals and that in response, he had sprayed “around 15 of them.”

You can read the statement of facts here.

Convicted bank robber pleads guilty to Capitol riot charges

An Oklahoma man last week became one of the hundreds of protesters to plead guilty to non-violent misdemeanors during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol

But the case of Levi Roy Gable, 37, of Chouteau, Okla., comes with a twist: He was sentenced to 68 months in prison for his role in a 2005 bank robbery.

That might impact the sentencing for Gable, who pleaded guilty Friday to misdemeanor charges of illegal entry to the Capitol that have seen other MAGA rioters avoid prison time. The charge carries up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

But under the federal sentencing guidelines referenced in Gable’s plea agreement, it’s not certain that Gable’s bank-robbery conviction will have much impact. The recommended sentencing range is 0 to 6 months, plus fines. Sentencing is at the discretion of the judge.

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On one hand, Gable fits the profile of rioters whose crimes have been minimized by MAGA politicians. He spent just 34 minutes in the Capitol, initially lied to the FBI about having entered the Capitol, isn’t accused of violence and he was outed to the FBI because with the help of his social media boasts about “making our voices heard.”

But Gable’s prior brush with the law was anything but ordinary. The then-20-year-old “earned a 68-month sentence as one of the two masked men who approached two bank employees working on an ATM machine out of Oklahoma State Bank,” the Oklahoman reported April 4, 2006,

In its reporting of Gable’s guilty plea for his role in the MAGA riot, the Oklahoman noted, Gable has worked for his family's excavation company in Tulsa for years. He was vice president of Gable's Excavating at the time of his arrest. He is no longer mentioned in the "About Us" section of the company's website.”

Gable’s sentencing was set for Jan. 10 in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Former firefighter who injured cops pleads guilty to felony for Jan. 6 Capitol riot

A Pennsylvania man who had served 26 years as a firefighter pleaded guilty today to assaulting law enforcement officers with a dangerous weapon – a fire extinguisher he threw at their heads -- during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Robert Sanford Jr., 57, of Chester, Penn., pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon, the Department of Justice reported today. The crime carries a maximum prescribed by federal sentencing guidelines.

That will depend upon whether the judge in the case accepts the prosecutor’s argument that the sentencing should be enhanced because of injuries caused to the officers, according to the terms of the plea deal. If the judge does not, the punishment range would be 46 to 57 months. Financial penalties also could apply. Judges are not bound to follow the guidelines.

Video footage from the riot shows Sanford drawing a fire extinguisher back in his right hand and hurling it at the heads of officers, the FBI alleged in its criminal complaint.

“The object appears to strike one officer, who was wearing a helmet, in the head. The object then ricochets and strikes another officer, who was not wearing a helmet, in the head. The object then ricochets a third time and strikes a third officer, wearing a helmet, in the head. Immediately after throwing the object, (Sanford) moves quickly in the opposite direction.”

Sanford also threw a traffic cone in the direction of officers and screamed that they were “traitors,” it was alleged. Sanford was a 26-year veteran of the Chester Fire Department who left the force in February, according to earlier reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sanford is to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2023. You can read the FBI statement of facts here.

GOP's Tommy Tuberville under fire for turning huge profit on 'well-timed' stock trade

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and his wife recently earned as much as Alabama’s $52,000 median income in just two months of owning a single stock they purchased in July, according to a report at Al.com.

The Tuberville’s turned a 55 percent profit on their purchase of “between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of ChannelAdvisor Corp. Stock,” the website reported. The stock was roughly $14 per share at the time of the purchase, but “on Sept. 6, ChannelAdvisor Corp. announced it was being acquired for $23.01 per share,” the report said.

The report noted “there is no evidence suggesting Tuberville had any inside information, and the senator has long said his financial advisors manage his day-to-day portfolio.”

Tuberville was of just 13 members of Congress slapped with the rating of “danger” by Business Insider late last year. In an exhaustive report, the publication rated every member on their “financial conflicts and transparency.”

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Tuberville “violated the Stock Act 132 times (with late disclosures) totaling at least $894,000.” And it noted, “member said they paid any applicable fines under the Stock Act but didn’t provide proof.”

None of that seemed to matter to Tuberville, who was unbowed in a February interview with the UK Independent, which had cited the 132 violations. He said he opposed efforts to restrict members of Congress from trading stocks because it would discourage people from serving.

“I think it's ridiculous. They might as well start sending robots up here,” he told The Independent. “I think it would really cut back on the amount of people that would want to come up here and serve.”

But in today’s reporting at Al.com, Tuberville’ office chose not to reiterate the senator’s strong stance when asked about current efforts led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., to tackle congressional stock trading.

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“A spokeswoman for the senator’s office declined to give his position and would not say whether he was concerned about an appearance of conflicts of interest,” the report said.

The al.com report noted the irony that on the same day of his stock purchase, “Tuberville attacked President Biden over the price of cookies” with a tweet charging that the president’s ““reckless economic policies are wreaking havoc on our economy.” That led to a cookie comparison.

“That purchase, about the equivalent of 28,571 to 71,248 boxes of family size Chips Ahoy cookies, would end up being worth between $150,861 and $377,150 as of the end of trading on Thursday, for nearly a 55 percent gain.”

Staying on the theme, the website also noted, “At a minimum, Tuberville and his wife earned about the same as Alabama’s median income of $52,000 in less than two months of owning ChannelAdvisor Corp. Stock.”

Democratic leadership announced Thursday that the House might take up legislation to reform the Stock Act as early as next week, Business Insider reported.

Capitol rioter who fought police and later pulled shotgun on his probation officer pleads guilty

A Pennsylvania man who was jailed in May after reaching for a loaded shotgun during an unannounced visit by probation officers has pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Barton Wade Shively, 55, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers, the Department of Justice reported. The plea agreement proscribes a punishment range of 30 to 37 months plus fines under federal sentencing guideless, subject to a judge’s approval.

Shively confessed in an interview with FBI agents that he had crossed broken-down barricades and got into fights with multiple officers, striking one and grabbing another by the jacket, the FBI reported. “Shelby admitted ‘I got caught up in the moment,’ the report said.

But Shively earned a more unusual distinction four months ago when – after nearly a year and a half under house arrest – he was jailed for violating the terms of his probation, according to a report at Buzzfeed News.

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“Probation officers reported that Shively had reached for a loaded shotgun — which he wasn’t allowed to have — during an unannounced home inspection,” Buzzfeed reported. “Besides the 12-gauge shotgun, the probation officers saw ‘in plain view’ hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a sword, knives, and body armor as they walked around Shively’s home, according to an order from US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

“Shively’s motion toward the shotgun prompted one of the probation officers to draw his own weapon, the order stated. Shively ‘displayed an alarming lack of candor’ with the court officers monitoring his compliance with his release conditions, the judge wrote.”

You can read the FBI statement of facts here.

Philly ex-cop convicted on voluntary manslaughter charges in 2017 shooting of unarmed Black man

A Philadelphia jury convicted a police officer of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the 2017 death of an unarmed 25-year-old Black man – “in what has been described as the first murder trial in Philadelphia's history for a civilian's death at the hands of a police officer,” it was reported today.

Former Philadelphia police officer Eric Ruch Jr., 34, was also convicted of possession of an instrument of crime. Ruch, who had been fired five months after the shooting, was found not guilty of third-degree murder by the jury, the report said.

Here’s more coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Prosecutors said Ruch, 34, acted with reckless disregard for life when he shot and killed Dennis Plowden Jr., 25, within seconds of facing him after Plowden led police on a high-speed car chase. No gun was found on Plowden after he was shot,” the Inquirer reported.

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Ruch, as well as five other officers, testified during the five-day trial that they thought Plowden was reaching with his right hand for a gun in his jacket pocket. “The hand you can’t see is the hand that can hurt you,” Ruch said.

“But prosecutors told the jurors to dismiss Ruch and the other police as liars. They said Plowden posed no threat and was seated, dazed and defenseless after crashing his car. They asked jurors to focus on Plowden’s left hand — the autopsy showed that Ruch’s single shot pierced Plowden’s left hand before hitting his head. This, prosecutors said, showed Plowden had raised that hand in submission.”

“Ruch put his head down and cried when the verdict was announced. He was denied bail and immediately taken into custody,” the Inquirer reported.

A spectacular backfire? Ron DeSantis might have unwittingly helped migrants obtain special visas

The estimated 50 migrants who were flown last week to Martha’s Vineyard on planes charted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may have a strong case to receive special visas as a result of the stunt, says a prominent immigration lawyer.

By having enticed the migrants to board the planes under false pretenses, those who lured them – including DeSantis – committed crimes that could qualify the migrants as victims under human trafficking laws, Elizabeth Ricci, whose practice is based in Tallahassee, Fla., told Raw Story.

“Massachusetts officials are looking into criminal action against Ron DeSantis, which would be helpful because that means they would also be willing to sign off that these were, in fact, victims of crime by having been transported under false pretenses”, Ricci said. “Law enforcement does need to sign off for purposes of U Visa eligibility, which is what I believe these immigrants are eligible for. So that's encouraging.”

A U Visa is a special non-immigrant status established by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. It was designed to protect immigrants who were victimized by crimes, and Ricci said this case falls directly under the definition of trafficking. Enforcement can come at the federal, state or local level, she said.

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Ricci said DeSantis unintentionally helped make the case publicly for why the migrants were victims as designed by human trafficking laws.

“DeSantis recently said in a press conference that (the migrants) were told that they would have better lives and jobs when they landed,” Ricci said. “Part of the definition of trafficking under federal and state law is enticement for a better life or jobs. There are other possibilities, too, but in this case, “better life and jobs” was actually what they were told and that falls directly into the definition of trafficking.

“The irony is that these families could actually receive U visas as a result of this, and U Visas lead to permanent residency, which leads to citizenship. So wouldn't that be ironic for them to legalize and become citizens as a result of DeSantis’ actions?”

Ricci acknowledged there is little chance of DeSantis personally getting prosecuted for his actions – “we all know the Governor dismisses those from office with whom he disagrees” – but she added that the migrants have a strong chance of having law enforcement officials initiate the steps they need to apply for a U Visa.

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“From what I’m hearing it seems like there are many officials from local all the way up to Congressional from Massachusetts who are enraged by this political ploy,” Ricci said. “So, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a number of options of law enforcement officers to choose from.”

Ricci said she had read the consent orders that were signed by the migrants. “I didn’t see anything in the orders that would absolve Florida and Texas from anything material” as to human trafficking. The waivers might cover something that happened to them in transit but didn’t speak to this issue of whether they were lured through false pretenses.

“The consent form might absolve the state from liability for an injury (someone tripped on a suitcase in the aisle and broke their ankle-although doubtful because a plane is a common carrier), but not from a criminal act such as trafficking,” Ricci said.

“It’s like if I said to you, ‘Get in my car so we can go for you to pay the drug dealer for the three tons of drugs I’m buying but if we get in an accident on the way, you can’t hold me responsible for criminal charges from conspiracy to sell drugs.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

But even if DeSantis would gain the dubious distinction of becoming the first governor whose own misconduct resulted in citizenship for immigrants he was trying to keep out, would he care? Here’s Ricci’s take:

“I think it's more to help himself politically, but I do think there is an element of malice here.”

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Capitol rioter who dressed as Jack Skellington on Jan. 6 will be donning prison garb for up to 8 years

A Nevada man pleaded guilty today to assaulting police officers with a dangerous weapon causing bodily injury – having wielded a table with a protruding nail – during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Josiah Kenyon, 35, of Winnemucca, Nevada agreed to a plea deal that calls for 78 to 97 months in prison plus fines under federal sentencing guidelines. Use of the guidelines is subject to the discretion of a federal judge.

Kenyon stood out for having worn a ‘Jack Skellington’ costume based on a character from the movie, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,' as reported last year at Raw Story. And there was this from the Department of Justice:

“During the rioting, Kenyon and others damaged an exterior window of the building. He first attempted to break the window with a closed fist, followed by several attempts with a flag staff."

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“Later, he used several objects, including what appeared to be a table leg with a protruding nail, to assault law enforcement officers who were attempting to protect the building. Additionally, according to the documents, he threw an unknown object and what appears to be a large, hard plastic pylon towards officers.”

Kenyon made news at the time of his arrest in Reno. Two sheriff’s deputies assigned to help the homeless had stopped to help a woman and two children living in a small, unheated travel trailer on the foothills of Peavine Mountain, it was reported.

“They came offering help, but encountered a woman, who according to their report, was evasive, and reluctant to give her name or her husband’s. She was reportedly suspicious at first that they might be policemen, who the woman said were — unlike sheriff’s deputies — 'unconstitutional.'"

“At that point, Josiah Kenyon pulled up in a camouflaged and modified Ford Crown Victoria. After Josiah Kenyon explained that his family would be moving on soon, the deputies left — but later decided "on reflection" to run a check on his license plate.

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“After the deputies discovered that Kenyon was wanted by the FBI, "A traffic stop was set up and Kenyon was arrested on the federal charges, along with his wife, Elizabeth, for child endangerment," according to the station.

"Deputies reportedly found an AR-15 rifle, a Glock handgun, ammunition and other weaponry inside the camouflaged car. The children were safe, but while being supervised spoke in the same sovereign citizen, anti-government rhetoric as their parents. It’s unclear how long they’d been living off the grid, on the run."

You can read the FBI statement of facts in Kenyon’s case here.

MAGA rioter who committed bloody attacks on police takes plea deal calling for up to 8 years

A Georgia man who attacked Capitol Police on January 6 and told one “you’re gonna die tonight” has pleaded guilty to assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon.

Jack Wade Whitton, 32, of Locust Grove, Georgia, entered the plea to one of the more serious felony charges to date among the 870 defendants arrested in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol. His plea deal, if accepted by a federal judge, would carry either sentencing range from 63 to 78 months, or 78 to 93 months.

“Whitton was part of a mob that confronted law enforcement officers at the Archway leading into the Capitol Building from the Lower West Terrace,” according to a Department of Justice news release. After another rioter kicked an officer guarding the Capitol, Whitton jumped in.

“Whitton kicked at this officer, who was still on the ground. He then grabbed another MPD officer, first by his baton, then by the helmet and the neck of his ballistic vest. He pulled him down and started to drag the officer down a set of steps in a prone position. Others joined him in dragging this officer into the crowd, where other rioters beat the officer with weapons, including a flagpole and baton.”

As reported last year at Raw Story, “Whitton, allegedly told an officer, "You're going to die tonight," and later boasted in a text message that he had "fed him (an officer) to the people."

"Idk (I don't know) his status," Whitton wrote in the text message to a friend, referring to the officer. "And (I) don't care tbh (to be honest)."

According to court documents, the attack left one of the officers with head wounds that required staples to close. This was after rioters "ripped off his helmet, maced him, took his gas mask and MPD-issued cell phone, kicked him, struck him with poles, and stomped on him."

He used a metal crutch to beat one Capitol Police officer and kicked another. Afterward, he boasted of his bloody hands and that he “fed an officer to the people,” according to court documents.

'Murder the media' Capitol rioters enter guilty pleas for a fraction of prison time they faced

Two men associated with the Proud Boys -- who gained infamy for the “Murder the Media” sign they posed with on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol -- have accepted plea deals calling for them to serve a fraction of the 20-year maximum sentences their crimes carried.

Nicholas Ochs, 36, founder of the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys and Nicholas DeCarlo, 32 of Fort Worth, Texas pleaded guilty to a felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding, the Department of Justice reported. The federal sentencing guidelines referenced in their plea deals both prescribe a range of 41-to-51 months in prison, plus possible fines. Such deals are subject to the approval of a U.S. District Court Judge.

But the two men are examples of criminals who should their lucky stars that the sheer volume of MAGA rioters precludes taking most of the cases to trial. Ochs and DeCarlo not only were captured on video throwing smoke bombs at Capitol police and stealing plastic handcuffs from a police duffel bag, but they posed in front of a sign DeCarlo had scrawled in permanent marker on a door to the Capitol proclaiming, “Murder the Media.”

Prosecutors said “Murder the Media” was also the name of a social-media channel the men operated, and DeCarlo was sporting a shirt with that slogan at the riot. DeCarlo claimed falsely to the Los Angeles Times that he and Ochs were in the U.S. Capitol as members of the press, according to FBI arrest documents.

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Ochs reported to social-media followers in the aftermath of the riot, according to the FBI:

Ochs states, “Viewers, . . . we have some good news: . . . We have just, uh, peeked through this window, and on the television the headline reads that Congress stopped the vote when we stormed the Capitol. And, as we’ve been saying all day, we came here to stop the steal,” to which DeCarlo interjects “we did it.” Ochs continues, “we were being sarcastic, but we didn’t know we were actually going to . . . .” DeCarlo then asks, “Wait, you were being sarcastic?” Ochs replies, “I was being a bit facetious,” to which DeCarlo replies, “Oh no, that’s what I came down here to do. We fucking did it.” Ochs then says words to the effect of, “It may resume, but the steal is for now stopped. You’re welcome, America!” to which DeCarlo replies “we did our job. We did our job.”

It’s not clear how a jury would have reacted to that narrative, or the pair’s consistent messaging of “Murder the Media.” But coupled with the evidence of assaulting police and stealing equipment from them – and Ochs’ status as the founder of a state Proud Boys chapter – one or both men faced considerable risk had they gone to trial.

The DOJ is obviously preoccupied with larger matters pertaining to the insurrection – and the alleged crimes of Donald Trump – and the 41-to-51-month sentences likely faced are by no means among the lightest meted out in connection with the Capitol riot.

But for Ochs and DeCarlo, it could have – and arguably should have -- turned out worse.

Five QAnon myths about Queen Elizabeth so viral and creepy that PolitiFact needed to dispel them

It might not come as a total surprise to most people to learn that Queen Elizabeth II was not a lizard, but thanks to the perverse social-media impact of QAnon, a leading fact-check website felt the need to debunk that lunacy and others.

Politifact felt the need to publish today “the most-outlandish claims we’ve fact-checked about Queen Elizabeth II.” In any other time, such freakishness from conspiracy theorists would hardly rise to the level of attention from serious sources.

But this isn’t any other time. So Politifact dismissed a “conspiracy theory that the royal family are a part of a line of reptiles from the constellation Draco, and that they have reptilian blood.”

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There were four other creepy theories that Politifact found “wacky enough to make us do a double-take:”

  • Queen Elizabeth did not die before September 8 and that her death was a part of a dark conspiracy involving pedophilia or child-trafficking.”
  • The musical artist Prince was not sacrificed in 2016 when he died on the Queen’s 90th birthday that year and that “he had been put to death as a birthday gift.”
  • Queen Elizabeth did not die from the COVID-19 vaccine. Politifact did note that she and her husband had been vaccinated in 2021 and that she was infected with the virus a year later.
  • “She was not shot and killed in Detroit.” Sourcing an Instagram post featuring the logo of Rap TV, a hip-hop news outlet, Politico observed “It’s unclear whether the post was meant as a joke.”

Capitol rioter with middle-finger tattoo takes felony plea deal calling for 51 to 63 months in prison

A Michigan man pleaded guilty today to assaulting law enforcement officials and causing injuries that sent at least one to the hospital during the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Justin Jersey, 32, of Flint, pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to a felony count of “assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, inflicting bodily injury, according to the plea agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The charges against Jersey carry up 20 years imprisonment, but an estimated federal guidelines range of 51-to-63 months is referenced in the plea deal.

Jersey was part of the mob that clashed with police officers late in the afternoon of January 6 at the Archway leading into the Capitol Building from the Lower West Terrace. Jersey was “carrying a large, gnarled stick…sprang at the line of officers charged at one…grabbing his face, and knocking him to the ground,” the FBI reported.

“As a result of the attack, the officer sustained serious physical injuries, including a laceration to his head, and bruising and abrasions to his body. Jersey, meanwhile, was able to grab another baton and used it to strike other officers in the Archway.”

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Jersey was identified initially with the help of a distinctively tattooed obscenity on his middle finger which was visible as he swung at officers, as reported last December at Raw Story.

According to that report, Jersey “was shown attacking officers while wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt in video circulated by the FBI over the summer. At the time, he was listed as No. 106 on the FBI’s Capitol wanted page.

"Jersey was friends with another Capitol riot defendant, Trevor Brown, and Jersey’s girlfriend publicly tagged the two men in a post about Jan. 6 on Facebook," the Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly reports. "Online sleuths found an Instagram image of Jersey that showed what appeared to be a 'F*CK YOU' tattoo on his left middle finger — which can also be spotted in images of him swinging a stick at officers — erasing any doubt about the identification."

Reilly added on Twitter, "Tattoos are the unsung heroes of the Jan. 6 probe, probably followed closely by freckles and moles."

Expert: Dems need to expand Supreme Court to counter the conservative assault on democracy

A Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court has been attacking American democracy for at least two decades – long before Donald Trump came along – and Democrats have an urgent need to expand the court to rescue the country. So says Harvard Professor Michael J. Klarman, a national expert who has been calling publicly for court expansion since 2018.
In an exclusive interview with Raw Story, Klarman laid heavy blame for “democratic collapse” on the “insidious” actions of Senator Mitch McConnell when he was Senate Majority Leader. Klarman said the threats facing democracy will not go away even if Trump does. And he says there’s no good argument for Democrats not to expand the size of the court by four justices to offset the political grip that Republicans disproportionately hold over it.

Klarman received his J.D. from Stanford and his D. Phil. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He clerked for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Klarman is a board member of the Take Back The Court Action Foundation advisory board.

Here's his interview with Raw Story:

Q. You were calling publicly for an expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court as far back as 2018, well before most others. What prompted you to come to that conclusion?

A. The precipitating event was Mitch McConnell’s theft of the Scalia seat in 2016. I think the strongest argument for court expansion is a combination of McConnell essentially depriving Democrats of the first chance they had in 50 years to have a majority of the court along with the structural changes that have given disproportional power to Republicans in recent decades. Democrats have now won the popular vote for the presidency in seven of the last eight elections. The 50 Democratic Senators represent 40 million more voters than the 50 Republican Senators. But the Republicans have retained power over the court. My argument is not just that they stole a seat. It’s that if you win with margins like this for the presidency and the senate, you ought to control the third branch of government.

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Q. And why this solution?

A. It's almost impossible to do anything about the electoral college or the Senate because you need a constitutional amendment, which is impossible to secure when there's a partisan split. But you can do court expansion by statute. Democrats may not be able to do anything about the fact they’re not going to be able to control the presidency or the Senate as much as they should – the same is actually true about the House, but not as dramatically. But they certainly don’t have to sit around and let that be true of the Supreme Court as well.

Q. Yet the Democrats have shown no appetite for doing that in the past nearly two years when they’ve had technical control of both houses of Congress, have they?

A. I wouldn’t say they have no appetite. It isn’t universally supported, and the President hasn’t been advocating for it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the House Democrats would vote for it today – it might be more than half. There’s a bill that was proposed and it has a lot of sponsors in the House, and at least Senator Markey and maybe more in the Senate. So, I wouldn’t call it no appetite. It’s not going to happen until Democrats unite behind it, but the Supreme Court is actually the strongest advocate for it with their radicalism. The last term was pretty extraordinary.

Q. Obviously, there was Dobbs that jumps out. But what other cases come to mind that went beyond the natural shift one gets with a more conservative court?

A. So am I limited to the last term, or can I talk about the last couple of decades?

Q. There are no limits here.

A. So the Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act between the Shelby County case and the case from the Arizona term before last. The Supreme Court refuses to do anything about gerrymandering. The Supreme Court unleashes money, including corporate money in politics. The Supreme Court undermines public-sector labor unions. The Supreme Court's about to strike down affirmative action next term. The Supreme Court strikes down gun control. The Supreme Court dramatically expands free exercise rights. The Supreme Court's going to embrace this absurd independent state legislature doctrine. The Supreme Court overturns a 50-year-old precedent on abortion. The court is a threat to democracy and the conservative justices seem completely unrestrained. I could go on and on.

Q. Got it. But what’s your response to those who would say that such a step by Congress would amount to destroying the separation of powers?

A. The size of the court was changed a half dozen times in the 19th century. For somebody to argue against this on constitutional grounds --especially somebody who's committed to originalism and strict construction -- is just flagrant hypocrisy. The size of the court was changed from six to five to seven to nine to 10 back to nine. It was often done for openly partisan reasons. It hasn't been done since 1869. But there's just no argument, no textual argument or even an original understanding that you can't change the size of the court.

Q. What do you say to those on the Democratic side who argue that if the Democrats expand the court, that somehow the Republicans will respond in kind when they take power back?

A. I do not understand the argument against doing it. I really want to emphasize at this point. There are lots of issues that I’m not super confident about, right? I don't know how much you should stimulate the economy when we're troubled by inflation, or what to do about the rise of China. But what’s the argument against court expansion when Republicans have already done it? Democrats are responding to what the Republicans have already done. We know the Republicans would do it the first time they need to control the court, because already done it

in several states. They've expanded the courts in Arizona, and Georgia. Rick Scott had said he would do it in Florida in his last act as governor if Democrats had won the gubernatorial race, saying “I’ll pack the courts before I leave.” They've tried to do it in North Carolina. McConnell obviously would do it. So, I don't see what the cost is. Expanding the court would still be perceived as less radical than indicting Trump, and it's obvious Trump should be indicted, since any other living human being would be indicted for what he's done.

Q. So is it fair to infer that you have given up on appealing to Mitch’s better angels?

A. McConnell has done more to undermine American democracy than Donald Trump, which is a pretty strong statement. In fact, McConnell may have done more than any American since the Civil War to contribute to democratic collapse.

He certainly has been doing it longer and better than Trump. McConnell does it in much more strategic and insidious ways because it takes place under the radar screen of most Americans. When he makes the Federal Government dysfunctional, that's not like January 6 where people see violence. That was the lesson of the Civil Rights movement, right? You have quiet segregation, and northerners don't care. But you blow up teenage black kids, in a church and suddenly, or you beat up John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and suddenly people care. But when McConnell made it impossible for President Obama to appoint agency heads or to get judges confirmed – or when he unleashed money in politics -- it was hard to mobilize the movement against those things. Obama tried. but you know money and politics is not generating images like George Floyd being murdered on national television.

Q. Still, there are a lot of Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans who seem to think that when Trump leaves the scene things will go back to some version of normal. Is it fair to say you don’t agree?

A. They're just wrong. I understand why they think so. Liz Cheney talks that way, and as much as I admire her, it’s a huge mistake. Most of the political scientists who study the degradation of democracy will tell you that the Republican Party has become a radical quasi-fascist authoritarian party over the last 20 years, and the problem is not Trump. I mean Trump may exacerbate it, but he's a symptom, at least as much as he's a cause. The problem is the voters, however many percent of people who are Christian white nationalists who think the country is losing its Christian identity and its white majority. They see their world as being existentially threatened. Trump has come along and said, “follow me,” but those people had to be ripe for it. There's no way. Donald Trump could have been successful 15 or 20 years ago. The Republican Party has been engaging in extreme voter suppression measures and attacking labor unions for the past 20 past years and it’s a recognition that by 2024, white Christians will not be a majority of the electorate.

Q. Are the partisan Republicans who sit on the Supreme Court today are the sort of individuals you just described? Or are they more mainstream partisans who are merely enabled by the extremists?

A. That’s a great question. This may be less true of Thomas and Alito, but it’s certainly true of Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Roberts and maybe Barrett. Probably none of them is thrilled with Trump; they might despise him. But they’re not willing to oppose this extreme libertarian ideology – the McConnell-Paul Ryan ideology – of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, denial of climate change and evisceration of the social safety net. What they most want is to dismantle the modern administrative state. They’re totally on board with gerrymandering, gutting the Voting Rights Act, unleashing corporate money in politics and undermining public-sector labor unions. But they don’t want January 6 and violence. I don’t think they’re committed to a fascist social agenda although that’s not entirely clear sometimes with Alito. But they’re not Ron DeSantis.

Q. But you do see them as continuing to attack the foundations of democracy, so is it fair to say that court expansion is the only way to stop them?

A. It's possible that the court would be intimidated if Democrats could win by a large enough margin in 2022. It would be really extraordinary if the Democrats held on to the House given that it’s only happened twice in the last 100 years and considering the president’s approval ratings are in the low 40s and inflation is its highest in 40 years. But these justices don't seem very chastened by their performance last term. So, there’s reason to think they’ll change. It may seem radical to expand the court, but Republicans brought this on themselves, and their court is really making the case for it to happen. It would be suicidal for Democrats to sit around and allow the court to strike down everything they care about unchecked. There’s no reason for Democrats not to expand it.

Alabamans fuming after Hyundai supplier they incentivized is accused of 'oppressive child labor'

A company that sells parts for Hyundai has been the second one accused of hiring minors in Alabama by the Department of Labor – and leaders in the town where its located are demanding an apology.

SL Alabama, the largest employer in Alexander City, Ala., with more than 600 workers, was accused of “employing oppressive child labor” in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a six-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Al.com reports.

“That means the company is accused of employing children under the age of 16. The complaint gave no specifics regarding the charge,” Al.com reported.

Negotiations are underway between the company and Labor Department.

“According to court records, SL Alabama has offered a proposed settlement where it agreed to not hire underage workers, verify the ages of workers hired through a staffing agency and to fire or discipline any managers aware of the use of underage workers, reports the Outlook, Alexander City’s local newspaper.

“The proposed settlement hasn’t been approved by federal courts.”

Alexander City Mayor Woody Baird issued a joint statement with local economic development officials condemning the company’s actions and reminding it of the help it got when locating there in 2003, according to the Outlook.

“The reported acts in the Department of Labor’s complaint are egregious and unconscionable and demonstrate an utter disregard for the good faith support of all entities who worked to bring SL Alabama to the Lake Martin area. These actions unfairly tarnish the reputations of those who provided incentives to support SL Alabama, leaving SL a daunting task ahead to rebuild the relationships readily granted them and which they intentionally worked to undermine.”

The scandal comes on the heels of another accusation involving a Hyundai supplier in Alabama.

Reuters reported that children as young as 12 have been recently employed at SMART Alabama in Luverne, which has supplied parts for Hyundai’s Montgomery plant since 2003, Al.com reported. This led to a class action lawsuit against Hyundai filed in California following the Reuters report. The U.S. Department of Labor and and the Alabama Department of Labor are investigating the story.

SL Alabama opened in 2003 and manufactures headlights, rear combination lights, and side mirrors for the automaker.

GOP candidates are doing backflips on abortion – here are some of the most pitiful examples

The national fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision ending Roe v. Wade has sent Republican candidates scrambling to pivot from their red-meat primary attacks on women’s reproductive freedom.

Now that they face the full electorate – animated by energized women voters furious over the decision – Republicans have resorted to some of the most shameless flip-flops on record. Campaigns have rushed to scrub their websites of anti-choice rhetoric and the candidates are disowning their own words on the subject. In some cases, just weeks or months after uttering them.

The strong political winds have sent anti-choice Republican politicians at every level scurrying for cover like a gaggle of Josh Hawley’s. Before-and-after snapshots reveal the depths of intellectual dishonesty to which they have been willing to sink.

Here are some cases in point:

Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania (Governor)

Before: “Abortion is my number one issue.” He would allow for no exceptions. “That baby deserves a right to life, whether it was conceived in incest, rape or whether there are concerns otherwise for the mom.” He supports criminal penalties for doctors and nurses involved in performing abortions. At a primary debate, he noted that his first bill as a state senator was to ban all abortions at six weeks, adding “I’m at conception, but we have to work toward that.”

After: Mastriano has gone silent on abortion since winning the primary and described it as a “distraction,” as reported here and here and here.

Kari Lake, Arizona (Governor)

Before: I believe that abortion is the ultimate sin. The mother does have some choices when it comes to her health, but this is a separate life, this is the life of a baby. And just because the baby is inside the womb and not outside the womb doesn’t make it any less valuable as a human being.” She also said she would “very much” favor banning abortion pills in Arizona and that all abortion clinics should be closed in the state. (She had indicated support for exceptions).

After: “Lake campaign didn’t respond to a question about whether she supported a complete ban, or if she would support punishments for abortion providers.”

Scott Jensen, Minnesota (Governor)

Before: In a March interview with the Minneapolis NPR, Jensen would ask if would ban abortion outright or impose new restrictions. “I would try to ban abortion. There is no reason for us to be having abortions going out. We have tremendous opportunities and availability of birth control. We don't need to be snuffing out lives that if left alone will produce a viable newborn, that may go on to be the next Albert Einstein… And we're saying no, if mom changes your mind, she can go ahead and slice and dice it and be done with it.”

After: “As he appeals to general election voters, Jensen has amended his position,” the Twin Cities’ Fox News affiliate reported. “In a July 29 campaign video, Jensen called his previous comments "clumsy" and said he would support exceptions to a ban. "If I’ve been unclear previously, I want to be clear now," he said. "Rape and incest along with endangering the mother’s mental or physical health are acceptable exceptions."

Blake Masters, Arizona (U.S. Senate)

Before: “There’s a genocide happening in America. Under Roe v Wade, the federal government recognizes the right to kill babies in the womb. It’s a religious sacrifice to these people. I think it’s demonic and we’ve got to put a stop to it. You have to know in your bones that killing an unborn person is not about health.”

After: Masters’ campaign recently scrubbed his website of the words, “I am 100 percent pro-life” and of his support for "a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed." He now only will say, ““Most people support common-sense regulation around abortion. I support a ban on very late-term and partial-birth abortions.”

Adam Laxalt, Nevada (U.S. Senate)

Before: “Roe v. Wade was always a joke. It was a total, complete invention.” As to Nevada having passed pro-choice laws: “It’s sad, it doesn’t make me happy. We are not a pro-life state and we’ve got work to do on that.”

After: “Voters in 1990 determined that Nevada is and will remain a pro-choice state. The Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs did not change Nevada law in this regard.” From his own August 2 op-ed piece in the Reno Gazette Journal.

Tiffany Smiley, Washington (U.S. Senate)

Before: After Texas passed its infamous near-total ban on abortion last fall, Smiley told reporters she agreed with it. She did add, “there’s a lot of parts of it that make it very hard for me in Washington state. But at the end of the day, I’m pro-woman first and then always pro-life.”

After: “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.” Smiley complained about a Democratic ad calling her an “extremist” because of having supported Texas’ draconian law. Which she had.

Herschel Walker, Georgia (U.S. Senate)

Before: “There’s no exception in my mind,” Walker told reporters after a campaign speech. “Like I say, I believe in life. I believe in life.” And at another campaign stop: “Walker promised to “protect the unborn with my life … because I believe from the womb to the tomb.”

After: Speaking at an event for farmers in Georgia, he was asked if the abortion ban in Georgia would impact his election. “People aren’t concerned about that,” Walker said, according to the Gainesville Times.

Tom Barrett, Michigan (U.S. House)

Before: On May 2, the Detroit Free Press reported, “State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, who is in a tough race to try to knock off U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, in a toss-up district that includes Lansing, has been sending out fundraising flyers calling himself "100% PRO-LIFE — NO EXCEPTIONS."

After: “Barrett has removed the "values" section of his campaign website that touted his anti-abortion position and history with the pro-life movement,” the Detroit News reported last week.

Barb Kirkmeyer, Colorado (U.S. House)

Before: After the Dobbs decision was leaked, Kirkmeyer posted this on her Facebook page. “Roe v Wade was a terrible decision that was not Constitutionally sound, and millions of unborn babies have died as a result.” She had also described herself as believing “unambiguously” that life begins at conception.

After: “Kirkmeyer removed language saying she would "defend the sanctity of life" and took down a video of her speaking at an anti-abortion rally earlier this year,” Axios reported.

Zach Nunn, Iowa (U.S. House)

Before:During a May primary debate (the moderator) asked all three candidates, “In your mind, should all abortions be illegal in this country? Hand up if you say ‘yes.’ All abortions, just to be clear,” Nunn said as he raised his hand. The moderator confirmed, “All abortions, no exceptions.” Nunn kept his hand up.”

After: “I wholeheartedly support the sanctity of life and believe that life begins with conception, but I also understand that there are real-world scenarios that aren’t black-and-white. There are medical emergencies that happen, like ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, that are beyond our control. That is why the heartbeat bill I supported in the Legislature contained specific exceptions for horrific circumstances like rape, incest and fetal abnormalities, and to save the life of the mother.” (From Nunn’s August 19 op-ed in the Des Moines Register).

Christian Castelli, North Carolina (U.S. House)

Before: “As a devout Christian, I will protect the unborn from conception to birth,” his issues page said before the primary. “I believe life begins at conception and we must do everything in our power to protect the defenseless at every stage of life. I will fight to stop tax dollars from being used to fund Planned Parenthood and abortion. Taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund immoral practices.” (via TV station Fox8 in North Carolina)

After: There’s no mention of abortion on his recently scrubbed website.

Amanda Atkins, Kansas (U.S. House)

Before: Supported the failed Kansas constitutional amendment that would have allowed abortion to become outlawed in the state. And her website stated, “As a pro-life advocate, I am committed to supporting life from conception until natural death. I celebrate the dignity and value of every citizen as informed by my strong faith and experiences as a mother.”

After: “Decisions on abortion policy belong close to the people, at the state level, and that’s where I’ll work to keep them as a member of Congress. I don’t support a federal ban on abortion, nor do I support any other federal policymaking related to contraception or fertility.” As a pro-life candidate, I will continue to be part of the dialogue on this issue at the state level, but I believe it’s not Congress’ place to impose a national abortion policy on Kansans.” (From her August 25 op-ed in the Kansas City Star).


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