Senate Judiciary Republicans Vote to Advance Barrett’s Nomination to Full Senate Despite Democratic Boycott

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate floor despite a decision by Senate Democrats to boycott the vote. The Republican-controlled committee voted 12–0 to recommend Barrett for a full Senate vote. No Democrats were present. “That was their choice. It will be my choice to vote the nominee out of committee,” the committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Thursday morning. “We are not going to allow them to take over the committee. They made a choice not to participate.” Senate Democrats on Wednesday said that they would be boycotting the committee’s vote on Barrett. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic members on the committee said in a statement that they “will not grant … any further legitimacy” to Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation. Republican’s push to confirm Barrett to the top court comes weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, drawing criticism from their Democratic colleagues who argue that whoever wins the election should be given the opportunity to select the nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Democrats have also taken issue over holding the proceedings during the pandemic and the Republicans’ tight schedule. “This has been a sham process from the beginning,” Schumer and other Democrats said in their Wednesday statement, accusing Republicans of “rushing to confirm a Supreme Court Justice,” to “take away health care from millions.” “We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just twelve days before the culmination of an election that is already underway,” Schumer said. Despite the Democrats’ announcement, Graham said on Wednesday that he will be holding a vote regardless of whether Democratic senators come, breaking longstanding committee rules. Judiciary Committee rules stipulate that 12 members have to be present to bring a matter to a floor vote, and that two people from the minority party need to be present “for the purpose of transacting business.” Republicans can meet the first requirement on their own if every Republican senator is present. However, the latter rule would require the presence of at least two Democrats. The rules also state that no nomination can be reported “unless a majority of the Committee is actually present at the time such action is taken and a majority of those present support the action taken.” “Judge Barrett deserves a vote and she will receive a vote. Judge Barrett deserves to be reported out of committee and she will be reported out of committee. Judge Barrett deserves to be on the Supreme Court and she will be confirmed,” Graham said in a statement. Instead of attending the markup, Senate Democrats said they will hold two press conferences. The full Senate is expected to begin considering Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23 with a final vote scheduled for Oct. 26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that he has the votes to confirm the judge and will “stay on it until we [are] finished.” The only GOP senators who have said they would not vote in favor of Barrett are Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). No Senate Democrat is expected to vote to confirm Barrett to the top court. The majority leader praised Barrett on Oct. 16 saying that the judge had “exhibited every bit of the intellectual brilliance, legal expertise, and open-minded judicial temperament that we need on the Supreme Court.” The committee’s vote comes at the heel of four days of hearings where senators questioned Barrett and examined her qualifications and record. Members of the committee grilled her on a range of issues that included abortion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), voting rights, climate change, and LGBTQ rights, among other social issues. Barrett largely refused to express her personal views by invoking precedents and rules governing judicial conduct. Senate Democrats spent a vast amount of time during the hearing presenting Barrett as a threat to America’s healthcare. They were unified in attempting to build a case that Barrett wouldn’t hesitate to overturn the ACA, also known as Obamacare, in an upcoming Supreme Court case. Barrett could be confirmed in time to join the court to hear that case, which is scheduled for oral arguments on Nov. 10. However, Barrett has repeatedly expressed during the hearings that she has no animus or hostility toward the ACA. Following Barrett’s nomination, the judge became targeted in several lengthy exposes by the media, which aims to cast her religious views in a negative light. Some reports have targeted Barrett’s membership with the People of Praise, a Christian community organization. Meanwhile, a recent Associated Press report focused on Barrett’s time serving on a board for private Christian schools with “anti-gay” policies. These attempts to smear Barrett come against a backdrop where the then-professor fielded multiple questions about her Catholic faith from senators during her 2017 confirmation hearing for her nomination to the 7th Circuit Court. The stories have prompted Republican lawmakers to denounce the “ongoing attacks” on her faith as “a disgrace.” “These euphemisms fool no one. United States senators are suggesting that Judge Barrett is too Christian or the wrong kind of Christian to be a good Judge,” McConnell said earlier this month. “Every Supreme Court Justice in history has possessed personal views. Judges have a job to do and they swear to do it impartially. It is the definition of discrimination to assert that Justice Barrett’s particular faith makes her uniquely unqualified for this promotion,” he added. Mimi Nguyen-Ly and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

Continue Reading Senate Judiciary Republicans Vote to Advance Barrett’s Nomination to Full Senate Despite Democratic Boycott

Sen. Lee: Internet Companies That Do Not Behave as Open Platforms Could Lose Section 230 Immunity

Internet companies could start seeing their liability protections under federal law rolled back if they behave as publishers or editors, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said in a recent interview. Lee made the remark during an interview with Fox News @ Night on Tuesday when commenting on Twitter’s suppression and censorship of two exposés by the New York Post that contain allegations on Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The articles alleged emails from a laptop reportedly dropped off by Hunter Biden at a repair shop reveal he profited from work in China and Ukraine while his father was vice president. The elder Biden over the weekend called the articles a “smear campaign.” The Utah senator said that while the internet companies could be held accountable for making in-kind campaign contributions, “the lowest-hanging fruit here might well have to do with their Section 230 immunity,” he said. Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act largely exempts online platforms from liability for content posted by their users, although they can be held liable for content that violates anti-sex trafficking or intellectual property laws. The law allows companies to block or screen content “in good faith” if they consider it “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” The protections, however, weren’t intended to apply to services that act more like publishers than online platforms, Attorney General William Barr said in a speech in May. “They’re acting and they’re behaving, not as an open platform here, but more as an editor, more as a publisher, and they ought not be entitled to that kind of immunity, if, in fact, they are deciding what they publish, rather than providing an open platform for such things,” Lee said of the internet companies. He added that although platforms ultimately decide what they do on their sites, it is Congress’s “prerogative to decide whether or not they’re publishers, or whether they are, alternatively, an open platform entitled to 230 immunity.” In September, the Justice Department (DOJ) submitted a proposal to Congress that seeks to curtail Section 230 for internet companies to force them to manage and moderate content on their platforms responsibly and fairly. Barr has been critical over the censorship carried out by internet companies like Twitter and Facebook against certain viewpoints. “They no longer function as simple forums for posting third-party content, but use sophisticated algorithms to suggest and promote content and connect users. Platforms can use this power for good to promote free speech and the exchange of ideas, or platforms can abuse this power by censoring lawful speech and promoting certain ideas over others,” the attorney general said in a letter to the Senate. The attorney general added that courts have also played a part in expanding the scope of the immunity for internet companies by interpreting Section 230 broadly. The immunity, Barr said, reaches far beyond speech torts such as defamation and has been known to be invoked in cases where the online platform knew their services were being used for criminal activity, for example. “For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Barr said in a statement. “Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open, and competitive environment is vitally important to America.” Section 230 has been put under the spotlight in recent years after lawmakers on both sides of the aisles raised concerns over the way internet companies handle disinformation and hate speech. Several lawmakers have made various proposals to amend the law, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), whose “Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act” aims to hold internet companies accountable for censoring political speech and hiding content created by competitors. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on May 28 directing federal agencies to develop regulations that protect users from unfair or deceptive content restriction practices employed by online platforms.

Continue Reading Sen. Lee: Internet Companies That Do Not Behave as Open Platforms Could Lose Section 230 Immunity

Meadows Tells Judge That Trump Tweets Weren’t Declassification Orders

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s Twitter posts about declassifying “any & all documents” related to the Russia probe and Hillary Clinton emails did not amount to an order to declassify or release additional documents. In a sworn declaration to a federal court, Meadows said the president’s tweets from earlier this month were “not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents.” He added that Trump’s statements also do not require “altering any redactions on any record at issue in these or any other cases, including, but not limited to, any redactions taken pursuant to any discretionary [Freedom of Information Act] exemptions.” Trump wrote on Twitter on Oct. 6 that he had “fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!” “All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our Country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act,” he also wrote. The president’s posts came hours after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified a pair of documents detailing a U.S. intelligence intercept of a Russian intelligence product that claimed that Clinton had approved a plan on July 26, 2016, to smear Trump by linking his campaign to the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee by Russians. Meadow’s filing was made in connection to a lawsuit that is seeking an unredacted version of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Oct. 16 ordered the Justice Department (DOJ) to file a declaration from Trump or his aide regarding whether the social media posts were intended to provide for further declassification and release of documents from Mueller’s investigation. The DOJ previously told the court in a filing that an unidentified official from the White House counsel’s office informed the department that the social media posts were “not an order to the Department of Justice to declassify the materials in this case.” Following Trump’s Twitter posts, the plaintiffs in the case—BuzzFeed, its investigative journalist Jason Leopold, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit research center—argued that the Twitter post amounts to a waiver of the exemptions. They asked the judge to order the DOJ to reprocess the report in light of  “this waiver.” Walton then ordered the DOJ to respond to the claim by Oct. 13 and to talk to the White House in order to ascertain the president’s official position regarding the declassification and release of documents relating to Mueller’s investigation. The judge has scheduled another hearing on the matter for Wednesday to address the White House response.

Continue Reading Meadows Tells Judge That Trump Tweets Weren’t Declassification Orders

To Prevent Police Excessive Force, Civilians Should Not Resist Arrests: AG Barr

Attorney General William Barr said on Tuesday that the most effective step to reduce instances of excessive use of force by police officers is to foster a culture of zero tolerance for resisting police. “If we wish to minimize excessive force situations, the most important and most effective step we can take is to reestablish and enforce the principle that there is no valid justification for physically resisting a police officer,” Barr said during an address to law enforcement at the National Association of Police Organizations Conference. “The approach has to be ‘comply first and complain later,'” he added. His remarks come amid a national dialogue pushing for police reform after protests and rioting erupted across the United States following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody. His death and several others, like Breonna Taylor’s, fueled calls for changing excessive force practices and further law enforcement training. Amid the protests, some city officials have said they would defund or even dismantle the police, escalating anti-police sentiments. Barr acknowledged the existence of excessive force but accused the media of inaccurately portraying the risks of police encounters with violent individuals and police training. “They’re heedless of the point that officers are trained when there is a predication for using deadly force, you shoot until the threat is neutralized, and you’d see the threat neutralized. But none of these factors are covered by the media because the media is interested in sensationalizing these instances, demonizing the officers involved, and thereby demonizing all officers,” he said. “They represent public authority, they must prevail. That’s a tough situation to be in when you’re facing violent resistance. Police officers don’t have to be told to de-escalate, they know to de-escalate, they try every day to de-escalate. But when de-escalation doesn’t work, and they’re faced with violence, they have to subdue that person. And they’re frequently at a disadvantage because the belt the gun, they have to protect the gun in any struggle.” Attorney General William Barr delivers remarks on Operation Legend at the White House in Washington on July 22, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images) Barr said while there is always a constant need to improve police practices and accountability to “weed out” bad actors, it was also important to ensure that the steps for reform are fair and address challenges faced by law enforcement such as health risks and evolving threats. The attorney general also criticized calls to eliminated qualified immunity, a doctrine that shields government officials from liability for damages claims for harm caused by their actions as they perform official duties. He said that in situations where an officer knowingly and willfully violates a well-established right, then it may be appropriate to hold the officer civilly liable. But he said qualified immunity is necessary to ensure police officers can do their job without fear. “Qualified immunity provides breathing space for officers to do their job without fear that an inadvertent or unpredictable error will subject them to personal financial ruin,” he said. “Without qualified immunity, individual officers would be deterred from taking the kinds of risky steps that are absolutely necessary to protect the community.” Qualified immunity was placed front and center during discussions for police reform. Multiple state legislatures have been considering doing away with the protection for state and local police and correctional officers. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Congress on both sides of the aisle have introduced bills advocating for the removal or limitation of the doctrine. The Trump administration has been supportive of police reform and has taken action to implement changes. President Donald Trump in June signed an executive order on policing titled, “Safe Policing for Safe Communities,” which aims to build trust between communities and members of law enforcement. Barr said the presidential law enforcement commission is ready to release a report that consists of various recommendations to help improve law enforcement in the country. But the report’s release is currently blocked by a federal judge following a lawsuit that claimed the commission’s process was secretive and lacked diversity.

Continue Reading To Prevent Police Excessive Force, Civilians Should Not Resist Arrests: AG Barr

GOP Senators Propose Constitutional Amendment to Block Packing the Supreme Court

A group of Republican senators on Monday unveiled a constitutional amendment to prevent Democrat lawmakers from expanding the Supreme Court if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the White House and Senate. The provision, dubbed the “Keep Nine” amendment, would prevent Congress from expanding or subtracting justices from the Supreme Court. “Make no mistake, if Democrats win the election, they will end the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court, expanding the number of justices to advance their radical political agenda, entrenching their power for generations, and destroying the foundations of our democratic system,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a statement. Cruz is joined by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R- Miss.), who are co-sponsoring the plan to prevent any steps to pack the court. This comes after Democrats from both chambers threatened to expand the Supreme Court if Senate Republicans move forward with filling a vacancy left by liberal Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The move to expand the court size, in efforts called “court-packing,” would be aimed at reshaping the bench in favor of liberals or at the very least balance the ideological makeup of the bench if Democrats were to regain control of the Senate and White House in the next election. After Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were confirmed to the bench, the court has been widely viewed to have a conservative lean, although Chief Justice John Roberts has in recent terms voted with his liberal colleagues on a number of controversial issues. Democrats and progressives fear that if President Donald Trump is successful in confirming his third nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, on the high court’s bench, the court will have a conservative lean for years to come. Barrett’s confirmation hearing ended on Oct. 15 and a vote on the nomination is scheduled for Thursday this week, with the full Senate taking up the nomination on Friday. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 14, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images) The proposal by Cruz and the other five senators also includes a legislative bill (pdf) that would create a “point of order against legislation modifying the number of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.” A point of order is a claim by a senator that a rule of the Senate is being violated. The bill aims to prevent “Democrats from unilaterally passing any court-packing legislation in the United States Senate,” the senators said. Court-packing had previously been attempted and was proven to be unpopular. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a bill to expand the size of the Supreme Court to a maximum of 15 justices. Roosevelt’s motive was to shift the ideological balance of the court so that it would stop striking down one of his New Deal programs. Although the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary are set up by the Constitution, it also gives Congress the authority to pass laws to set up the judicial branch, including how many justices are on the top court. The Constitution states, “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” The bar to amend the Constitution is very high as it requires two-thirds of the House and Senate to approve the text of the amendment and then requires three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment. Given the current division in the country, such as effort is unlikely to succeed. Last month, Reps. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) and Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) proposed a similar amendment to permanently set the number of Supreme Court justices at nine. The congressman said they were worried that partisan efforts to expand the court’s size could set off a battle that could further polarize the country. Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris have repeatedly refused to give their position on whether they support or oppose proposals to pack the Supreme Court.

Continue Reading GOP Senators Propose Constitutional Amendment to Block Packing the Supreme Court

US Charges 6 Russian GRU Officers Over International Hacking Operations

The Justice Department announced on Monday that six Russian military hackers were charged for allegedly engaging in a series of hacking efforts targeting other countries’ infrastructure, elections, or businesses, in what has been described as the “most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.” The military hackers, who are agents of a Russian military intelligence agency known as GRU, allegedly used various cyber tactics, including deploying destructive malware with the purpose of furthering the Russian government’s interest to destabilize and interfere with the political and economic systems of other countries, the department said. The GRU is the same agency that was allegedly involved in hacking efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Among those targeted includes Ukraine’s electric power grid, Ministry of Finance, and State Treasury Service; French Emmanuel Macron’s political party and French politicians; hosts, participants, partners, attendees, and the IT systems of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics; organizations and entities investigating the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal; Georgian companies and government entities; as well as businesses and medical facilities in the United States. “No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously and irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented collateral damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said during a press conference on Monday announcing the charges. According to the indictment, the hackers deployed “some of the world’s most destructive malware to date”—such as KillDisk, Industroyer, and NotPetya—which caused widespread damage, including blackouts in Ukraine and disruption to thousands of computers used to support the 2018 Winter Olympics. The men have been charged with conspiracy to conduct computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, damaging protected computers, and aggravated identity theft.  Each defendant is charged in every count in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh. Wanted poster. (Justice Department) The department said several of the men had previously been charged for their role in allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. Demers said the allegations should be evidence into why the United States should not accept President Vladimir Putin’s offer for a cyber “reset” between the two countries. The agreement would require both counties to provide guarantees not to engage in cyber-meddling in each other’s elections. “Russia is certainly right that technologically sophisticated nations that aspire to lead have a special responsibility to secure the world order and contribute to widely accepted norms, peace and stability. That’s what we’re doing here today,” Demers said. “But this indictment lays bare Russia’s use of its cyber capabilities to destabilize and interfere with the domestic political and economic systems of other countries, thus providing a cold reminder of why its proposal is nothing more than dishonest rhetoric and cynical and cheap propaganda.” The department said the attacks caused nearly $1 billion in losses to three U.S. victims including the Heritage Valley Health System in Pennsylvania. The men allegedly deployed the NotPetya malware, which caused “the unavailability of patient lists, patient history, physical examination files, and laboratory records.” “Heritage Valley lost access to its mission-critical computer systems (such as those relating to cardiology, nuclear medicine, radiology, and surgery) for approximately one week and administrative computer systems for almost one month, thereby causing a threat to public health and safety,” according to a department statement. Other U.S. victims include a FedEx Corporation subsidiary TNT Express B.V. and a large pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Continue Reading US Charges 6 Russian GRU Officers Over International Hacking Operations

DNI Ratcliffe: There ‘Should Be’ More Indictments Coming From Durham Investigation

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Monday that he believes U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origin of the Russia probe “should” result in more indictments based on the intelligence he has access to. “It resulted in [an] indictment. I think there will be more indictments,” Ratcliffe told Maria Bartiromo, the host of Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria.” “Based on the intelligence that I have access to, I certainly believe that there should be.” Bartiromo was asking the director of national intelligence about documents the ODNI declassified earlier this month relating to the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign for alleged collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. The investigation, which evolved into former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, yielded no evidence of collusion or cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign. As part of that investigation, the FBI sent spies to target members of the campaign and obtained intrusive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants on a former campaign adviser. In obtaining the warrants, the bureau used an unverified dossier compiled by a British ex-spy who was ultimately paid by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Durham was appointed in early 2019 to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and to assess whether the surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page was free of improper motive. The probe was designated a formal criminal investigation later in 2019. Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI attorney, pleaded guilty in August to altering an email to make a false statement about Carter Page’s status as a CIA source. An FBI special agent relied on the altered email to obtain a surveillance warrant in the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Apart from Clinesmith’s plea, Durham’s work has largely been behind-the-scenes, which has left people speculating about his progress and whether accountability would be achieved. Responding to a question about Durham’s timeline and accountability, Ratcliffe said “prosecutors shouldn’t be looking at election calendars.” He said he believes Durham is trying to carry out a “fair administration of justice.” He added that some of the documents that “underscore the abuses of power are just coming to light.” “I mean I just declassified some of them and that has been a process that’s been in the works,” he said. Earlier this month, Ratcliffe said he had handed over almost 1,000 pages of materials to the DOJ in support of Durham’s investigation. “At my direction, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has now provided almost 1,000 pages of materials to the Department of Justice in response to Mr. Durham’s document requests,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. “I will continue to ensure the Intelligence Community’s responsiveness to the DOJ’s requests.” A day prior, Ratcliffe declassified a pair of documents detailing a U.S. intelligence intercept of a Russian intelligence product that claimed Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, had approved a plan on July 26, 2016, to smear Trump by linking his campaign to an alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee by Russians. Ivan Pentchoukov and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

Continue Reading DNI Ratcliffe: There ‘Should Be’ More Indictments Coming From Durham Investigation

Trump and Sen. Ben Sasse Feud Following Senator’s Diatribe Against the President

President Donald Trump expressed discontentment with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Saturday after leaked audio revealed the Nebraskan senator berating the president in a call to his constituents earlier this week. In a series of social media posts, Trump described Sasse as the “least effective” of all the Republican senators and suggested that he “truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great.” “Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!” Trump said in his post. Trump was likely reacting to leaked audio, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner, that disclosed a telephone conference call where Sasse was critical of the president. In the call, the senator expressed his dissatisfaction with the president for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his discontentment over the president’s foreign policy among other issues. Sasse said he has been honest about how he has felt about Trump, acknowledging that the president had “done some stuff well, and some poorly.” The senator, who is pessimistic about Trump’s chances at the polling booth, also expressed his concern that Trump and his actions could further polarize the country by driving the country further to the left, and “take the Senate down with him.” “This has been my fear,” he said, according to the over 9-minute leaked audio. “If young people become permanent Democrats because they’ve just been repulsed by the obsessive nature of our politics, or if women who were willing to still vote with the Republican Party in 2016 decide that they need to turn away from this party permanently in the future.” “I think we are staring down the barrel of a blue tsunami and we’ve got to hold the Senate and that’s what I’m focused on,” Sasse said. Following Trump’s Twitter posts about Sasse, the senator’s spokesman James Wegmann posted a statement on Saturday saying: “Ben said the same thing to Nebraskans that he has repeatedly said to the President directly in the Oval Office. Ben is focused on defending the Republican Senate majority, and he’s not going to waste a single minute on tweets.” At around midday, the president posted on Twitter again floating the idea that Sasse, who is up for re-election on Nov. 3, could face the same fate as former Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker who retired in 2019. Both senators had been critical of Trump. “Senator Little Ben Sasse of the Great State of Nebraska seems to be heading down the same inglorious path as former Senators Liddle’ Bob Corker, whose approval rating in Tennessee went from 55 [percent] to 4 [percent], & Jeff “the Flake” Flake, whose approval rating in Arizona went from 56 [percent] to practically nothing,” the president wrote. “Both Senators became totally unelectable, couldn’t come even close to winning their primaries, and decided to drop out of politics and gracefully ‘RETIRE.’ @SenSasse could be next, or perhaps the Republicans should find a new and more viable candidate?” he added. The president also appeared to reject Sasse’s assessment of the race, by posting, “GIANT RED WAVE COMING!” Sasse, a first-term lawmaker, had previously challenged Trump on a number of issues, including the president’s use of executive orders. He characterized Trump’s use of the orders as an “unconstitutional slop.” “President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA, and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law. Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress,” Sasse said in August. The criticism came after Trump signed four executive orders bolstering unemployment payments, deferring the payroll tax for most Americans, extending student loan relief, and directing officials to study whether measures temporarily halting all residential evictions are reasonably necessary. Sasse’s statement prompted Trump to call the senator a “RINO,” or “Republican in name only,” while saying the senator had “gone rogue” after receiving an endorsement from the president. Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

Continue Reading Trump and Sen. Ben Sasse Feud Following Senator’s Diatribe Against the President

Kamala Harris to Resume In-person Campaign Events in Florida

Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is resuming in-person campaign events on Monday by traveling to Florida during its first day of in-person early voting. The announcement comes after Harris suspended in-person events following news that several campaign staffers tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said earlier this week that the two staffers—a non-staff flight crew member, and Harris’ communications director Liz Allen—did not have contact with Biden, Harris, or any other staff members since testing positive or in the 48 hours prior to their positive tests. “After being with Senator Harris, both individuals attended personal, non-campaign events in the past week. Under our campaign’s strict health protocols, both individuals had to be tested before returning to their work with the campaign from these personal events. These protocols help protect the campaign, the staff, and anyone who they may have contact with,” Dillon said in a statement at the time. Harris tested negative for the virus on Thursday. The Californian senator has been campaigning virtually since canceling in-person events. The positive tests of the Biden campaign staffers came about two weeks after President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. Their son, Barron Trump, also tested positive this month. They have all since recovered. Trump told a rally in North Carolina on Oct. 15 that he extended his “best wishes” to the Biden campaign after learning about the positive tests. Trump and Biden participated in-person town halls on Oct. 15. Earlier this week, Harris appeared remotely during Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. She quizzed Barrett about a range of topics including the Affordable Care Act and tried to bait the judge into giving her view about climate change. At one point, Harris asked the judge whether she thinks COVID-19 is infectious and smoking causes cancer, in which Barrett said they were established facts. Harris then asked Barrett, “Do you believe climate change is happening and it’s threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?” Barrett then said that while the first two questions were on established facts, she said that she would not respond to the third question because it was trying to elicit an opinion from her about a “very contentious matter of public debate.” “I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial because that is inconsistent with the judicial role, as I have explained,” the judge added. “Thank you, Judge Barrett. And you’ve made your point clear that you believe it’s a debatable point,” Harris said in reply. Harris will be traveling to Orlando and Jacksonville on Monday. Further details about the campaign stops will be released in due course. Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

Continue Reading Kamala Harris to Resume In-person Campaign Events in Florida

Supreme Court to Hear Trump’s Bid to Exclude Illegal Aliens From Census

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review a Trump administration effort to exclude illegal aliens from the 2020 census count that is used to apportion congressional seats. In an unsigned order (pdf), the justices set a Nov. 30 date to hear oral arguments from the parties. A three-judge panel in a New York district court in September ruled that Trump’s memorandum excluding illegal aliens from congressional apportionment count was an illegal overreach of the president’s authority as delegated by Congress. The judges on that panel declared the memo, which was issued on July 21, as unlawful and subsequently blocked it from being implemented. This prompted the Trump administration to appeal the decision to the top court. In their 86-page decision (pdf), the judges said that federal law required the use of one set of numbers to count people for the census and in the process of redrawing congressional districts, known as apportionment. So long as the illegal immigrants are living in the United States, “illegal aliens qualify as ‘persons in’ a ‘state’” who should be counted, the judges ruled. The July 21 memo, which is at the center of the case, stated that “it is the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status,” for the purpose of the reapportionment of Congress members following the 2020 census. “Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of government. Affording congressional representation, and therefore formal political influence, to states on account of the presence within their borders of aliens who have not followed the steps to secure a lawful immigration status under our laws undermines those principles,” the memo states. A DHS agent making an arrest as part of a weeklong effort in California targeting criminal aliens, Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2020. (Michael Johnson/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Trump ordered the Department of Commerce to report two sets of numbers for each state based on the 2020 census: the total count of the population, and the total population minus the number of illegal immigrants. The latter number would be used to apportion congressional seats. In July, Trump said in a statement that his administration “will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully, because doing so would create perverse incentives and undermine our system of government.” “Just as we do not give political power to people who are here temporarily, we should not give political power to people who should not be here at all,” the president said. Shortly after the memo was issued, 38 mostly Democrat-leaning states, cities, and counties, plus several immigrants’ rights nonprofits, sued the Trump administration, arguing that it was “motivated by discriminatory animus toward Hispanics and immigrant communities of color.” They argued that the memo could leave millions of people uncounted and possibly affect congressional apportionment in several states. Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement on Friday accused Trump of repeatedly weaponizing the census to “attack” illegal aliens. “The Supreme Court rejected his attempt last year and should do so again,” he said. Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the decennial population survey. The Constitution requires the census to be collected every 10 years. The information gathered from the questionnaire helps determine representation in Congress based on states’ respective populations, as well as the allocation of federal government funding. Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.

Continue Reading Supreme Court to Hear Trump’s Bid to Exclude Illegal Aliens From Census

Attorney in Obamacare Challenge: Congress Shouldn’t Wait for Supreme Court to Start Working on Better Law

A lead attorney representing parties challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, said Congress should get to work in developing a health care package that would protect Americans with pre-existing conditions and empower people to make their own health care decisions. “States and Congress have an obligation to do better,” attorney Robert Henneke told The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders.” Henneke is the lead counsel representing two individuals challenging former President Barrack Obama’s signature health care law in a pending Supreme Court case set to be heard on Nov. 10. A coalition of Republican-led states is also challenging the law. “And so they shouldn’t wait until the [Supreme] court rules but rather should get to work today, to make sure that there’s a safety net for people with chronic conditions who aren’t able to be insured and to also make sure that people have the personal freedom to be able to make healthcare decisions for themselves and to restore that doctor-patient relationship.” Robert Henneke (Courtesy of Texas Public Policy Foundation) The ACA was repeatedly highlighted by Democrats during Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s recent confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Democrats tried to make the case that Barrett, being a President Donald Trump nominee, would not hesitate to overturn the health care law if she is confirmed in time to join the bench to hear the case. The case in question deals with whether a provision in the law, referred to as the “individual mandate,” which required people to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty, is unconstitutional after Congress removed the tax penalty in 2017, rendering the law unenforceable. If the top court finds that the law is unconstitutional, the justices would have to weigh whether the provision is so vital that removing it would collapse the entire ACA. A group of Republican-led states led by Texas, and two individuals—who Henneke represents—are arguing that the provision is unconstitutional and the entire ACA needed to be invalidated because the provision was inseverable from the rest of the law. A district court judge in Texas found in favor of the plaintiffs and an appeals court upheld the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims and sent the case back to the district court for a more detailed review of the question of severability. The U.S. House of Representatives and a group of Democrat-led states then escalated the case to the Supreme Court, requesting intervention. The top court agreed to take on the case in March. Henneke, who is also the general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said Democrats were using fear-mongering tactics during Barrett’s confirmation hearings in order to convince the American people that the ACA, which he said has failed Americans, is good policy. “I think the Democrats are still working off their playbook from 2018, where they very successfully use the fearmongering over the elimination of the Affordable Care Act to retake the House of Representatives and to achieve other gains through the election process,” Henneke said. He said Democrats succeeded in 2018 because the Republicans, who had the White House, House, and Senate, did not achieve any health care reforms. But he said it is different now because President Donald Trump “has a pretty robust package of reforms that he has accomplished.” In September, Trump unveiled his ‘America First’ health care plan, which the president said “expands affordable insurance options, reduces the cost of prescription drugs, will end surprise medical billing, increases fairness through price transparency, streamlines bureaucracy, accelerates innovation, strongly protects Medicare, and always protects patients with preexisting conditions.” Henneke said many Americans are dissatisfied with the ACA because it failed to deliver what Obama had pledged it would deliver. “This was the law that was promised by President Obama to not only decrease costs but to give, you know, universal access to care. There are still, today, many problems with their health care system, and those are being driven by the Affordable Care Act,” he said, adding that some of the problems include affordability and lost of the choice of patients’ doctors. Public Opinion tracking by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that attitudes toward the ACA are divided. In a poll conducted in October, 55 percent hold a favorable view of the ACA, while 39 percent hold a negative view of the law. When broken down by parties, 85 percent of Democrats hold a favorable view compared to 18 percent of Republicans who share the same opinion. Meanwhile, the poll also found that 58 percent of Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA, with 89 percent of Democrats and only 16 percent of Republicans saying they don’t want the top court to strike down the law. With reporting by Jan Jekielek.

Continue Reading Attorney in Obamacare Challenge: Congress Shouldn’t Wait for Supreme Court to Start Working on Better Law