Nel's New Day

November 13, 2018

Lawyers Winners of Elections, Other Lawsuits

The real winners of the midterm elections and the first 662 days of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office are the lawyers. Nowhere has this been more obvious in the past week than in the South where Georgia and Florida Republican officials—candidates for offices—are screaming “fraud” and charging off to the courts.

During a campaign rally a few days before the 2016 presidential election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win.” He won and accepted the electoral vote although not the popular vote—which he lost. Now he’s losing in at least three states and refusing to accept the midterm election races.

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over his opponent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) dwindles, Scott, also the U.S. Senate candidate, has been joined by Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to echo DDT’s cry of voter fraud despite disagreement from the state secretary of state, a Scott-appointed Republican. Scott didn’t object to GOP counties breaking his own emergency order when predominantly GOP Bay County, hit hard by a recent hurricane, allowed voters to illegally cast ballots by email.

Scott filed at least five lawsuits trying to defeat Nelson, including not counting all ballots received after Election Day which disenfranchises all overseas voters including veterans. Florida voters are now suing him for illegally abusing his position as governor to win his race for U.S. senator by stopping the counting of legal votes. Despite Scott’s lawsuits, Florida has started a machine recount of the vote and may have a manual vote if the difference in that election drops below 0.25 percent. Scott is ahead by about 12,000 votes in 8 million plus ballots before all have been counted; Florida’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is behind GOP Ron DeSantis by about 40,000 votes.

In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who resigned when he falsely declared himself governor-elect, has lost a lawsuit to block ballots. In this election of almost four million voters, his Democratic opponent, Stacy Abrams, is behind by about 58,000 votes, but a judge has ruled that provisional ballots must be counted because Kemp, in charge of elections, has not maintained voter information security, increasing the risk that his purge of over 700,000 names on the registered rolls was illegally “manipulated or mismanaged.” The court orders mandated publicity about a website for provisional ballot voters to find information about whether their provisional ballots had been counted and why. The judge stated that the ballots were rejected “through no fault of their own.”

Under Kemp, Georgia voter updates by people getting or renewing state driver’s licenses never moved into the state’s voter database, and they didn’t know that Georgia had illegally failed to register them to vote. State law mandates that provisional ballots are counted only if names are on the voter registration list where they may have been removed because of Kemp’s actions. The Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) requires the provisional ballots be counted if voters are eligible to vote.

Another judge ordered Georgia to count 5,000 ballots rejected because voters didn’t complete date of birth when signing mail-in ballot envelopes and ordered the state’s vote counting to continue until Friday instead of ending today. As of Sunday, Abrams needed 19,000 more votes to trigger a recount and 21,000 more to force a December runoff. The almost 22,000 provisional ballots plus over 2,000 ballots coming from overseas and military brings the total of uncounted ballots to nearly 29,000.

The November 27 run-off for U.S. Senate pits Mississippi candidates Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) against Mike Espy, behind by 8,000 votes, for the final two years of a senate term because neither candidates garnered 50 percent of the vote. At a campaign rally four days before the midterm elections, Hyde-Smith responded to a man who praised her, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi recorded at least 581 lynchings of black people, about 12 percent of the 4,743 between 1882 and 1968 and the most of any state in the country. DDT-supporter Hyde-Smith repeatedly refused to answer questions by saying that she had issued a statement calling the remark an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

DDT already lost the U.S. Senate position in Arizona that went to the Democrat Krysten Sinema. Opponent Martha McSally was gracious in her concession, perhaps because she expects to be appointed to former Sen. John McCain’s position if Jon Kyle leaves in January.

A sour-grapes failed GOP candidate for the Arizona legislature is suing her winning opponent, U.S.-born Latina Raquel Terán, accusing her of not being a U.S. citizen. Alice Novoa already sued Terán in 2012 for the same (non)offense, and the case was dismissed because her attorney provided the birth certificate. Novoa avoided $650 in court fees with her claim that she doesn’t work and has no income.

Nonelection lawsuits:

Maryland opened to door to lawsuits involving DDT’s unlawful appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting AG for Jeff Sessions replacement. Brian Frosh, Maryland AG, asked a federal judge to remove Whitaker from that position because the appointment is unconstitutional. This request is part of the state’s ongoing lawsuit to force DDT to retain a key provision of the Affordable are Act, including protections for people with pre-exiting conditions. Maryland AG Brian Frosh declared that any action Whitaker takes regarding the ACA for the federal government would be invalid because he cannot legally serve as acting AG and asks for an immediate injunction. In 2014, Whitaker maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the ACA was one of the worse rulings in its entire history.

DDT believes that he is protected in Whitaker’s appointment by the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, stating that a president may temporarily fill a vacancy for a position requiring Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. Another statute makes the deputy attorney general next in line at the DOJ. The lawsuit maintains that a more specific law takes precedence over a more general law. The AG also argues that DDT should have less flexibility in replacing the AG because a president under investigation could install a “carefully selected senior employee who he was confident would terminate or otherwise severely limit” the inquiry. Whitaker is justifying his position with an 1898 Supreme Court Case supporting the appointment of the acting U.S. consult in the country that is now Thailand when no one else was available after the Senate-confirmed consult was sick. The argument against this case is that the AG office did not become vacant through an unexpected emergency and several Senate-confirmed DOJ officials are available.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has also called for hearings to address “serious questions” about his appointment because of Whitaker’s outspoken opposition to the Robert Mueller investigation.

In a First Amendment lawsuit, CNN is suing the White House for stripping Jim Acosta’s of his press credentials. Acosta was targeted after false accusations of “laying hands” on a press intern. The accurate video shows her stepping into his space to grab his microphone and his saying, “Pardon me, ma’am.” Also included in the suit are tops aides John Kelly, Sarah Sanders, Bill Shine, the head of the Secret Service, and the officer who took Acosta’s pass. After a complaint was filed, the White House claimed that Acosta lost his credentials because he refused to give up his microphone.

The DOJ has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop lawsuits in three courts of appeal—the 2nd, the 9th, and the D.C.—to block President Obama’s DACA program where these courts allow the program to continue.

DDT’s administration is also facing a lawsuit accusing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a top deputy of sexism in determining their policy decisions. Filed in January, the lawsuit argues against DeVos’ prevention of Title IX guidance on handling campus sexual assault cases; the current filing adds that her decision was impacted by discriminatory and stereotyped views of women, based on evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These records show that the Department of Education obtained input from sources pushing inflated and widely discredited statistics about false rape allegations. Another source came from Candice Jackson, who provided a book  Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (Laura Kipnis), that falsely described the Title IX guidance permitting women to seek legal recourse for “awkward sexual experiences” and then ask for protection from “sexual bogeymen.” Jackson also received information from Gordon Finley, part of the National Coalition for Men, who referred to the former Title IX guidance as a “war on men,” and she falsely maintained that 90 percent of sexual assault accusations come from misunderstandings or drunken regrets. Other sources provided prejudicial information to the department’s leaders about claims regarding sexual assault. DDT’s statements and behavior toward women also figure into the lawsuit’s amendment on sexism.

Two weeks ago, DeVos lost her court battle after she tried to end regulations helping defrauded students receive federal loan forgiveness and keep colleges from mandating arbitration for complaint resolution instead of going to court. President Obama’s consumer protections are now in effect.

October 21, 2013

Good News after the Shutdown

Recent news seems to be better than usual. We’re probably in a honeymoon period after the government re-opened and a few of the GOP members of Congress seem mildly chastened, but I’ll just enjoy what we have today.

Gov. Chris Christie has decided to stop fighting marriage equality in New Jersey. A judge ruled that same-sex couples could marry in that state this month—beginning yesterday, in fact—but Christie appealed the decision, asking for a stay of ceremonies until after the appeal. The judge turned him down, and the governor’s office submitted a formal withdrawal of the appeal to the state Supreme Court this morning. New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize marriage equality.

In my state of Oregon, the attorney general has ruled that the all government agencies in the state must recognize all legal out-of-state marriages, whether performed in other states or other countries. A campaign is still collecting signatures to put marriage equality on the ballot in 2014 by removing the ban from the state constitution. Over 100,000 signatures of the necessary 116,284 have already been gathered. Meanwhile two couples are suing the state to legalize marriage equality. Suits are popping up in several other states that discriminate against gay and lesbian marriage.

Opinion about the GOP has not faired well with the aftermath of the government shutdown. A new survey from Pew Research shows that unfavorable views of the Tea Party have doubled in the past three years from 25 percent in 2010, when the extremists took over the House of Representatives, to 49 percent last week. Only 30 percent of the people have a favorable view of the group that shut down the government for 16 days.

Tea Party

A majority of Americans also think that the GOP control of the House is bad for the country, and even more want House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) replaced. The 54 percent who oppose the GOP rule is up over 25 percent from the 43 percent in December 2012, the last fiscal standoff. Another 63 percent want Boehner replaced.

An NBC/WSJ shows that 24 percent of people approve of the GOP, a record low. Gallup, usually more positive than other surveys, found only 28 percent approval of the GOP. Congress has a 12 percent approval rating with 86 percent of the respondents disapproving, according to the CNN/ORC International poll. President Obama’s ratings haven’t changed since last June, and 44 percent are more confident that he can handle problems facing the U.S., compared to the 31 percent who think that the GOP can. Another 21 percent expressed no confidence in both that the president and the GOP.

For a month the Internet has been reporting the possibility of Democrats taking back the House. I have serious doubts because of the heavy gerrymandering done in the majority of the GOP-controlled states, but this idea keeps popping up. A new survey of 25 GOP-held districts shows dwindling favorability for Republican members of the House in the wake of the recent government shutdown, indicating excellent chances for a Democratic candidate.

In ten of these districts, the incumbent Republican is trailing a generic Democrat. Adding this survey to previous ones, generic candidates lead in 27 of 61 GOP-held districts. When voters were informed their Republican candidate supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped, and one race became a tie. The Dems would have to add 18 seats to the existing 200 in order to achieve control of the House. Unfortunately, voters have very bad memories, but bad behavior in January and February with the possibility of another shutdown might renew a negative impression of the GOP legislators.

Negative press may be the reason that Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR), who came in with fellow Tea Partiers less than three years ago, has announced that he will not seek re-election. As usual, he used the family responsibilities. Griffin is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and a nonpartisan report rates his district as “safe Republican.” Griffin was Karl Rove’s protege of Karl Rove and appointed as an interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock in 2006 after a scandal in which several U.S. attorneys were fired by the administration. He was never confirmed by the Senate and later resigned the position.

Another interesting race is for Kentucky senator. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being attacked by the Tea Party on one side and Democratic candidate Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on the other. She has run a tough campaign thus far with her infamous description of Congress: “The GOP has come to stand for gridlock, obstruction and partisanship. If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.”

McConnell tried to pick up some points during the government shutdown by negotiating with Harry Reid and then announcing that this can never happen again. The final continuing appropriations resolution also provided his state with a $3 billion earmark. Yet Grimes’ one-point lead doubled during the shutdown to 45-43 as 60 percent of the people in the state opposed the government closures. The Affordable Care Act, which McConnell vehemently opposes, has been very successful in Kentucky.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is still looking good in the Tea Party despite his determination to eliminate the Affordable Care Act at all costs. Time, a publication popular with conservatives, announced that he “potentially violated ethics rules by failing to publicly disclose his financial relationship with a Caribbean-based holding company during the 2012 campaign.” When he was caught in 2013, he reported the financial relationship by amending his mandatory financial disclosure documents but is now being forced to submit a second amended disclosure after an inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

When good news comes out of the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s usually because they have refused to hear a case. Last week justices said they wouldn’t review a decision that upheld the Maryland gun law requiring residents to demonstrate a “good and substantial reason” to get a permit to carry a handgun outside their own home or business. The state is one of six “may issue” states mandating this reason. Maryland law does not recognize a vague threat or general fear as an adequate reason for obtaining a permit. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.

Maryland residents can carry a gun at their home or business or while hunting with no permit. The new Maryland law that went into effect at the beginning of October will most likely be the subject of court cases. One of the nation’s tightest gun laws, it bans 45 types of assault weapons, though people who owned the weapons before the new law was passed are allowed to keep them. People must also submit fingerprints to get a license to buy a handgun. That law is also being challenged in court.

Another court case that SCOTUS turned down comes from Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a candidate for governor, and his obsession with outlawing sodomy and oral sex. Ignoring the fact that SCOTUS struck down anti-sodomy laws ten years ago, Virginia kept the law on the books, and Cuccinelli wanted to use it to prosecute cases involving minors. Last July, Cuccinelli unveiled a website for the law and said that he planned to put it back on the books. He also blocked the Virginia legislature from changing the law to conform to the SCOTUS ruling.

The law, however, clearly includes all people, including adults, who engage in oral or anal sex, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed it unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign isn’t very successful either, partly because of his close relationship to Ted Cruz. Last week’s poll shows the GOP candidate down seven points to Terry McAuliffe. A recent ad gives evidence of Cuccinelli’s role in shutting down the government. Virginia was the state most hurt by the federal shutdown. Another of Cuccinelli’s problems is the restrictive laws regarding women’s reproductive rights in the state that has frequently brought out protesters.

As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.” But for today, this news is good.

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