YouTube removed two official R. Kelly channels from its platform Tuesday, one week after the R&B superstar was convicted of nine counts of sex trafficking. Kelly’s music is still available on YouTube, just not through his official channels. YouTube pulled the channels because Kelly was convicted of using his celebrity to lure women and girls into his sex trafficking scheme, NBC News reported. Kelly will be prohibited from ever re-creating a YouTube channel, though he won’t have to worry about that while he is in prison. He will be sentenced May 4. His music is also still available on other str...
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In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, former law professor John Eastman denied that he argued that then-Vice President Mike Pence “could unilaterally reject electoral votes and simply declare President Trump reelected.”
“The advice I gave to then-Vice President Pence was that he accede to requests from hundreds of state lawmakers to delay proceedings for a short time so that they could assess the effect of illegalities on the conduct of the election," Eastman wrote, referring to to a conversation during an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4, 2021 -- a claim that was contradicted by the sworn testimony of Pence’s legal counsel, Greg Jacob, who said that Eastman argued at the meeting that it would, in fact, be “legally viable” for the Pence to reject electors.
In an op-ed this Monday, The Free Lance-Star declared that Eastman isn't offering much of a defense for his actions. "It’s more like a plea bargain to a lesser transgression against the American republic," the Star's editorial board writes.
"Asking Pence to reverse the 2020 election directly was appalling. Asking the VP to stall the Electoral College, so that state legislatures could reverse the 2020 election, was also appalling," the Star continues.
If Pence had followed Eastman's advice, the result would have been a constitutional crisis. "Getting this history right matters. 'The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,' Trump tweeted on January 5, 2021, the day before the riot. He didn’t come up with that idea himself," the Star's Board writes.
Read the full op-ed over at the Free Lance-Star.
Based on precedent and statistics heading into the 2022 general election, it should have been a straightforward victory for Boebert. She won her first election in 2020 by six points and the 3rd District, which includes the Western Slope and sweeps east to encompass Pueblo, grew more conservative following the once-in-a-decade redistricting process.
That’s not what happened.
As results came in beginning on Election Night, it was clear Frisch was performing much better than expected — and even better than the campaign’s internal polling, which at one point showed him within two percentage points of Boebert. He maintained his lead over Boebert for nearly two days, and then fell behind her by the slimmest of margins as county clerks finished counting ballots and curing rejected ones.
Frisch eventually conceded on Nov. 18 when he trailed by 551 votes, putting Boebert ahead with a less than one-point victory. The result will trigger an automatic recount under state statute, but it is unlikely that process will yield the hundreds of votes in Frisch’s favor needed to overturn the result.
“I was quite surprised that it was so close. I teach U.S. Government and the day of the election I stand up, credibility on the line, and say that there’s no way Lauren Boebert is going to lose this race, given the fundamentals and partisan lean in the district and all,” said Ryan Strickler, an assistant professor at Colorado State University Pueblo. “I had to go to the next class and kind of eat crow a little bit.”
Strickler said that while it can be hard to analyze a race so soon after it happened, the outcome seemed to be more about Boebert than Frisch. Boebert has become a leading figure on the Republican Party’s far-right wing, consistently making headlines with inflammatory and controversial comments. Frisch ran as a moderate alternative to Boebert, leaning more towards centrist policies than left-wing ones.
“My take is that a lot of people who voted for Frisch were voting against Boebert rather than voting for (him). That means Frisch did a decent job putting himself in the center and painting himself as a moderate. I think that gave some voters who are weakly Republican a permission structure to vote for him,” Stickler said.
Frisch referred to himself as a “conservative businessman” and repeatedly said he would join a “Get Things Done” political party if there was one. He was against President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and advocated for an energy approach that would continue relying on oil and natural gas.
Adam Frisch, left, then a Democratic primary candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, at a debate among Democrats on May 25, 2022, in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)
Joel Johnson, a professor of political science also at CSU Pueblo, said that Boebert’s polarizing personality probably both hurt and helped her.
“I think some voters who voted libertarian or didn’t turn out last midterms did turn out this time and voted for Frisch, who was seen as more of a responsible and moderate candidate,” he said. “But if the theory is that her brand of politics is too polarizing and too show-boaty and it drives voters away, then how do you explain that a businessman like (GOP Senate candidate) Joe O’Dea, who tried to paint himself as a moderate, did worse?”
O’Dea lost by about 14 points to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
“But I think both were going on in her case. I think she lost votes from moderate Republicans and some libertarian-minded voters,” Johnson said.
“I think it’s too early to truly unpack what happened, but there are a few things that pop out for me: She received the same vote total, in Pueblo County anyway, as (former U.S. Rep Scott) Tipton did in 2018. That’s kind of amazing, in a sense, because 2018 … Democrats didn’t do as well as some people were expecting, and it’s in some ways a mirror image of this election, where the Republicans didn’t do as well as people were expecting,” he said.
In 2018 in Pueblo County, Tipton received 31,787 votes and won both the county and reelection. Boebert got 31,102 votes in the county, fewer than Frisch’s 35,390.
Pueblo’s role in the outcome
Pueblo County ended up being decisive in the race. As Frisch led early in the ballot counting, many of the remaining ballots were in Pueblo and pundits speculated that an influx of ballots from the county could pull overall in Frisch’s favor.
That speculation perhaps rested on a belief that the region is bluer than it actually is.
“There’s all these crosscurrents in Pueblo that make it swingy. Slightly overall Democratic leaning, but not as much as people assume,” Strickler said.
Pueblo can be a political wild card when it comes to statewide and national elections. The county went for former President Donald Trump — just barely — in 2016, and then for Biden — again, just barely — in 2020.
Pueblo West and the more rural parts of the county, especially, lean Republican, Pueblo County Democratic Party Chair Mary Beth Corsentino said.
“We have a fairly high Democrat registration, but we are definitely a purple county more so than a blue county,” she said.
It is not consistently Democrat or Republican, but the area, built on working class labor and steel mill production, can be more susceptible to populist politics, which some feel Boebert represents, Johnson said.
We are definitely a purple county more so than a blue county.
– Pueblo County Democrats chair Mary Beth Corsentino
“I think that that sort of more populist brand of Republicanism is something that is more attractive in Pueblo than a Joe O’Dea, Mitt Romeny, Paul Ryan type,” he said.
That hypothesis has support, as Boebert did better than other more traditional Republicans in Pueblo County. She outperformed Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, who tried to paint himself as a moderate on the campaign trail, and also did better in vote total than Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl in the county.
“I’m disappointed that our margin wasn’t greater because people worked very, very hard for Adam here,” Corsentino said. “And we’re proud of what they did, but it would have been nice to have been part of what could have put him over the top.”
Lessons for 2024
Frisch pulled off the razor-thin margin with almost zero national support. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, did not target the congressional district with messaging, outreach or fundraising.
Meanwhile, the group poured over $2.5 million to oppose state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer in her bid for the 8th Congressional District, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The DCCC mostly directed money to districts that President Joe Biden performed well in during the 2020 cycle and had other political dynamics likely to play in the Democrats’ favor. The 3rd Congressional District’s nine-percentage-point lean towards Republicans and the fact it hasn’t had a Democratic representative since 2008 didn’t fit into that strategy.
It simply was not seen as competitive enough for a Democrat to win, despite it becoming one of the most competitive in the country.
“In this election, the voters of Colorado’s 3rd District put MAGA Republicans on notice: extremism, hate and division isn’t welcome in Colorado. While we narrowly came up short this time, voters will have their say again in two years,” DCCC Spokesperson Chris Taylor wrote in an email.
He declined to comment on whether the committee felt there was a missed opportunity in the district this election cycle or how Frisch’s performance might inform a 2024 strategy.
A guest at the primary election night watch party for Rep. Lauren Boebert poses next to a poster of Boebert at Warehouse25sixty-five Kitchen + Bar in Grand Junction on June 28, 2022. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)
“Our plan from the very start was to build a tri-partisan coalition, and we did that in the face of deep national skepticism that we could do this,” Frisch said in his concession statement.
Frisch filed a statement of candidacy on Nov. 17 to run again in 2024, but told the Pueblo Chieftain it was in order to raise more money in case the recount turns out to be in his favor and he needs to mount a legal challenge.
Strickler said he was heartened by the 2022 results because they showed that politicians will pay a penalty for “election denial or anti-democratic values.”
“Maybe we will see some walking away from the more extreme elements in 2024. But for District 3, my take is that it is still a Republican leaning district. I don’t think it means that this is a complete toss up district, but maybe it is a little more competitive than the independent redistricting commission assumed,” he said. “Perhaps with the right candidate with the right message and set of circumstances, it can continue to be competitive in the future.”
Turnout should also get a boost in 2024 with the presidential election. That, combined with this year’s outcome, might lead Democrats to put more resources into the district and not view it as unwinnable, Johnson said.
“This should have been an easy win for Republicans this year,” he said. “I think the Democrats, looking forward, have an easy roadmap to win this seat the next time around. Boebert will be in a very tight race (in 2024) is what this shows.”
Reporting from Quentin Young contributed to this story.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: email@example.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
'They are going to slam this judge': Experts say appeals court will shut down Trump judge’s 'circus'
The special master process ordered by Cannon, a Trump appointee, effectively allows former President Donald Trump to challenge the search warrant at his office and residence before he is indicted — an extremely rare opportunity for a criminal defendant.
The oral argument by prosecutors, who are now under the direction of the newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith, shows that the 11th Circuit may be close to reversing Cannon's process. The three judges on the panel — two of whom are Trump appointees — shared their skepticism that Cannon had jurisdiction to take action before an indictment, and that even if she did, she had no factual predicate to appoint a special master.
Judge Britt Grant, who was appointed by Trump, asked the former president's legal team whether they tried to appeal Cannon's finding that the Justice Department did not demonstrate a "callous disregard" for Trump's rights. Trump's attorney, James Trusty, said that they did not appeal the finding and Grant responded that the finding required a reversal of Cannon's order.
Judge Andrew Basher also confronted Trump's attorneys with two questions that stumped them: whether there was any precedent to prevent the DOJ from using the seized materials in its investigation before any indictments and whether there is any reason that Trump should be treated differently in the case than other defendants other than his status as the former president.
Trump's attorneys were unable to give a satisfactory answer to the judges. After hearing the oral argument Trusty tried to keep the special master appointment by disparaging Cannon's injunction against the DOJ. He argued that the DOJ was not harmed by the injunction because of an order issued by the 11th Circuit that allowed the department to use the 100 documents that were originally labeled "classified" in the investigation.
"Then, in language that I have never heard an attorney use in the more than 25 years I have worked as an attorney in criminal law, Mr. Trusty said that the injunction was 'overblown' and that what really mattered was preserving the Special Master," wrote former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner for The Daily Beast.
"The 11th Circuit judges and the DOJ attorneys jumped on that statement, noting that it was unprecedented for the DOJ to be barred by the judiciary from using documents seized by search warrant during their investigation," said Epner.
Epner added in his analysis that he rarely makes predictions on court rulings, but "this is the exception."
"I would be shocked if the 11th Circuit does not overturn Judge Cannon's order," Epner wrote, "I also think it will happen quickly. The judges have asked for the upcoming schedule in front of the Special Master."
Special Master Raymond Dearie has scheduled the next hearing for Dec. 1, when he is expected to hear arguments about the remaining 900 documents in the investigation. On Dec. 16, Dearie would be required to give his report and recommendations to Cannon, and the parties will then have the ability to object to Cannon or the 11th Circuit. This process would likely last months.
"I cannot imagine the 11th Circuit allowing this circus to continue until Dec. 1, and that's part of why I expect that the 11th Circuit will promptly overrule Judge Cannon, ending the entire process," Epner predicted.
Former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne on Saturday also said that she expects the 11th Circuit to come down on Cannon for her protection of Trump. Speaking with MSNBC's Ali Velshi, Alksne said that Cannon can expect to be reprimanded soon.
"It sounds like after reading the transcript of the appellate hearing in the 11th Circuit that they are going to get rid of the special master and they are going to slam this federal judge [Cannon] who put a wrinkle in the process that was totally unnecessary," she said.
"And that will speed up the process and allow the government to really dive into those documents because, remember, it is not only — when you look at this case to a prosecutor — it is not just does he have the documents, where they willfully maintained and did he not return them when he was asked to. You also have to have sort of a global outlook on it like, why did he do it?" she elaborated.
"In order to do the prosecution, you kind of want to know that," she added. "Is it an ego thing, as somebody leaked from the Justice Department or did those documents make it into the stream of his financial considerations? Is that why he ended up with these deals in the Middle East? Has Jared Kushner seen the documents? Who has touched them, who has seen them, who knows about them, who has used them?"
"The sooner we get rid of the special master process, or we complete it, the sooner we can get to that point and we can move forward with the prosecution," Alksne stated.
If the 11th Circuit does rule against the former president, there will likely be an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court which will be denied almost immediately, according to Epner. The former U.S. attorney predicted that Smith and his team will then quickly move in to indict Trump on multiple counts. Despite Trump's attempts to keep the case in the Southern District of Florida, the indictment will likely be issued from the District Court for the District of Columbia due to the removal of national security documents from the White House.
Trump's worst fears will be realized if the trial happens in D.C. where he received only 5 percent of the vote in 2020, the lowest total in the entire country, Epner wrote.
The indictment may also go beyond the Espionage Act to include a felony charge relating to Trump's demands that the IRS conduct audits of his political enemies. "I would not be surprised if each of those IRS employees cooperated with the DOJ, with all fingers pointing in Trump's direction," Epner said.
"The nice thing about prosecuting tax crimes is that the crimes are very clearly delineated. Few jurors have any sympathy for people who cheat on their taxes or wrongfully sic the IRS on an individual to carry out a personal vendetta," Epner concluded.