Archives for category: Elections

When Ron DeSantis entered Congress, he joined the Freedom Caucus, the far-right members of the House. His very first vote was in opposition to aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which pummeled New York City and the New Jersey coast.

The New York Times noted:

As a freshman congressman in 2013, Ron DeSantis was unambiguous: A federal bailout for the New York region after Hurricane Sandy was an irresponsible boondoggle, a symbol of the “put it on the credit card mentality” he had come to Washington to oppose.

But any hurricane that harmed a Red state got his vote. Four years after opposing federal aid for Sandy relief, he supported aid for victims of Hurricane Irma, which affected his own state.

The Washington Post wrote about GOP hypocrisy on hurricane relief. When a hurricane hits a Red state, they are for it. In the rare instance when the disaster is in a Blue state, not so much.

The GOP movement to question spending on disaster relief began to pick up amid the debate over Hurricane Katrina aid in 2005. Only 11 House Republicans voted against the $50 billion-plus package, but others cautioned that they’d be drawing a harder line moving forward, particularly if the spending wasn’t offset with cuts elsewhere.

“Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren,” said future vice president Mike Pence, then a congressman from Indiana.

After the tea party movement took hold around 2010, members began to hold that line. A $9.7 billion flood relief bill for Hurricane Sandy was considered noncontroversial, even passing by voice vote in the Senate. But 67 House Republicans voted against it, including DeSantis.

Then came a larger, $50 billion Sandy bill. Fully 36 Senate Republicans voted against it, as did 179 House Republicans — the vast majority of GOP contingents in both chambers (again including DeSantis). They objected not just because the spending wasn’t offset, but because they viewed it as too large and not sufficiently targeted in scope or timing to truly constitute hurricane relief.

By the time 2017 rolled around, though, DeSantis wasn’t the only one who didn’t seem to be holding as hard a line. Despite the bill lacking such spending offsets, the GOP “no” votes on a $36.5 billion aid bill for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria numbered only 17 in the Senate and 69 in the House.

Such votes show how malleable such principled stands can be, depending on where disaster strikes.

For instance, only three of 18 House Republicans from Florida voted for the larger Sandy bill, but every one of them voted for the 2017 bill that included aid for their home state.

Likewise, of the 49 House GOP “yes” votes on the larger Sandy bill, nearly half came from states that were directly affected, including every Republican from New York and New Jersey.

One of those New Jersey Republicans was Rep. Scott Garrett, who actually introduced the smaller Sandy bill. Just eight years before, he had been one of those 11 Republicans who voted against the Katrina package.

If you comb through all of these votes, you’ll notice that, the larger Sandy bill aside, lawmakers who come from states that are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes (i.e. along the Gulf Coast) are generally less likely to be among the hard-liners — perhaps owing to the fact that they know their states could be next in line.

That’s where DeSantis’s votes do stand out. On the first Sandy bill, he was one of just two Florida Republicans to vote no, and very few members from the Gulf Coast joined them.

It’s a stand that served notice of his intent to legislate as a tea party conservative; he cast the vote just a day after being sworn in to Congress.

Democrats don’t seem to have the same problem. They typically support disaster aid, even in Red states.

It’s also noteworthy that DeSantis has switched gears in addressing President Biden, whom he usually refers to as “Brandon” (a rightwing synonym for “F… you, Biden”). Now, for the moment, he calls him “Mr.President.” And he can be sure that Democratic President Biden will respond with federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

Politifact reports how DeSantis and Rubio voted on hurricane relief.

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado is known for her love of guns and God. The Denver Post spoke to several experts on Christian nationalism, and they agreed that she is an extreme voice for her religious beliefs. She won the Republican primary in her district and is near certain to win re-election for her extremist views. No matter what the Founding Fathers wrote, no matter what the Constitution says, Boebert foresees the reign of Christ in the days ahead. She is a proud religious zealot.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s pattern of pushing for a religious takeover of America, spreading falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election and warning of an impending judgment day amounts to Christian nationalism, religious, political and social experts say.

Those ideals threaten the rights of non-Christian — and typically non-white — Americans but also endanger the foundation of the country’s democratic process, those experts say. The far-right Western Slope congresswoman represents a high-profile and incendiary voice in the movement, which is infiltrating virtually every level of American government and its judiciary.

Boebert leaned on those talking points Friday — in her official capacity as a member of Congress — at the Truth & Liberty Coalition’s From Vision to Victory Conference in Woodland Park.

“It’s time for us to position ourselves and rise up and take our place in Christ and influence this nation as we were called to do,” Boebert, of Silt, told the crowd, which responded with applause…

“We know that we are in the last of the last days,” Boebert later added. “This is a time to know that you were called to be part of these last days. You get to have a role in ushering in the second coming of Jesus.”

Boebert and her contemporaries, whether in Congress, state or local governments, can be expected to increase the volume and frequency of their Christian nationalist rhetoric as the November midterm elections approach and even beyond, Philip Gorski, a sociologist and co-director of Yale’s Center for Comparative Research, said.

“This is new and worrisome,” Gorski said. “There’s an increasing number of people saying ‘We’re in this battle for the soul of America. We’re on the side of good and maybe democracy is getting in the way. Maybe we need to take power and if that means minority rule in order to impose our vision on everybody else then that’s what we’re going to do.’”

Boebert’s comments Friday in Woodland Park serve as a dog whistle for violence, said Anthea Butler, chief of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Religious Studies. Especially in the context of the congresswoman’s penchant for firearms and her framing the issue around the November elections….

“I believe that there have been two nations that have been created to glorify God. Israel, whom we bless, and the United States of America,” Boebert said in June. “And this nation will glorify God.”

In the same address Boebert said she was “tired of this separation of church and state junk” and claimed that God “anointed” Donald Trump to the presidency….

She doesn’t explain why her God anointed a man to the Presidency who has no religious beliefs and is known for adultery, lying, and cheating his fellow citizens.

Boebert is perhaps best known for her gun-rights advocacy and said this summer that Jesus had been killed by Romans because he didn’t have enough assault rifles “to keep his government from killing him.

She blamed a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, on “godlessness that is here overtaking America” and she frequently says drug use and violent crime are on the rise because of the Latin American people illegally immigrating through the southern border.

“It’s the idea that government power should be in the hands of ‘real Americans’ and those ‘real Americans’ are defined by an ethnoreligious category that usually entails white conservative Christians,” Kristin Kobes DuMez, a professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University, said. “This is not compatible with democracy.”

The end goal for certain sects of Christian nationalism, which subscribe to so-called Dominion theory, is to conquer what are called the “seven mountains” or seven areas of influence, Gorski said. They are family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.

“Once they do, that will trigger the second coming of Christ,” Gorski said, citing their prophecy.

Boebert is moving in those circles, which also have ties to militia groups, Gorski added.

I wonder if there will be room in Boebert’s new world for people who don’t share her beliefs?

Our political system changed for the worse and became less democratic when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 to lift the ban on political spending by corporations and labor unions. The vote was 5-4. Justice John Roberts joined the conservative bloc to provide the deciding vote. The decision is explained and posted here on the Federal Elections Commission’s website.*

Lloyd Lofthouse, our frequent commentator and friend, wrote the following commentary about the ongoing and disastrous influence of big money in elections:

Private companies becoming citizens and doing this stuff is nothing new.

“But for 100 years, corporations were not given any constitutional right of political speech; in fact, quite the contrary. In 1907, following a corporate corruption scandal involving prior presidential campaigns, Congress passed a law banning corporate involvement in federal election campaigns. That wall held firm for 70 years.” …

“Then came Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 First Amendment decision in 2010 that extended to corporations for the first time full rights to spend money as they wish in candidate elections — federal, state and local. The decision reversed a century of legal understanding, unleashed a flood of campaign cash and created a crescendo of controversy that continues to build today.”

https://www.npr.org/2014/07/28/335288388/when-did-companies-become-people-excavating-the-legal-evolution

“Citizens United is a conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization in the United States founded in 1988. In 2010, the organization won a U.S. Supreme Court case known as Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down as unconstitutional a federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from making expenditures in connection with federal elections. The organization’s current president and chairman is David Bossie.[1]”

“Dark Money: Citizens United unleashed unlimited spending in our elections, and groups can now spend hundreds of millions without disclosing their sources of funding. We advocate for greater transparency in election spending.”

https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/reform-money-politics/influence-big-money/dark-money

*The FEC commentary begins with this paragraph about the Citizens United decision:

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission overruling an earlier decision, Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce (Austin), that allowed prohibitions on independent expenditures by corporations. The Court also overruled the part of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission that held that corporations could be banned from making electioneering communications. The Court upheld the reporting and disclaimer requirements for independent expenditures and electioneering communications. The Court’s ruling did not affect the ban on corporate contributions.

I do not understand the last sentence of the paragraph, which contradicts everything that precedes it as well as the practical effect of the CU decision. If there are any lawyers out there who can explain this apparent contradiction, I welcome your comments.

One of our readers who assumes the sobriquet “Democracy” posted the following comment. Like most people, I did not read the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Report on the 2016 election.

He/she writes:

From the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election, volume five:

“the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…Manafort’s presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign. Taken as a whole, Manafort’s highlevel access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat…Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president. Moscow’s intent was to harm the Clinton Campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the U.S. democratic process…While the GRU and WikiLeaks were releasing hacked documents, the Trump Campaign sought to maximize the impact of those leaks to aid Trump’s electoral prospects. Staff on the Trump Campaign sought advance notice about WikiLeaks releases, created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following their release, and encouraged further leaks. The Trump Campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack-and-leak campaign to Russia and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort.”

Click to access report_volume5.pdf

From The Washington Post, two days ago:

“Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them…Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location.”

“… the FBI has recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago this year: 184 in a set of 15 boxes sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in January, 38 more handed over by a Trump lawyer to investigators in June, and more than 100 additional documents unearthed in a court-approved search on Aug. 8…Among the 100-plus classified documents taken in August, some were marked ‘HCS,’ a category of highly classified government information that refers to ‘HUMINT Control Systems,’ which are systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources, according to a court filing.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/06/trump-nuclear-documents/

Trump is a traitor to the Constitution and the rule of law and he is a clear and present danger to the American democratic republic.

President Biden announced this morning that the rail industry and the workers’ unions had struck a tentative deal to avert a national rail strike. Such a strike would have crippled the economy and snarled supply chains.

Biden wanted to demonstrate that unions and management could work together, and they did.


“This agreement is validation of what I’ve always believed: Unions and management can work together, can work together, for the benefit of everyone,” he said in remarks in the Rose Garden.

Biden hosted the negotiators who brokered the railway labor agreement before his remarks.

“The negotiators here today. I don’t think they’ve been to bed yet,” Biden said.

The president called into the talks, which were being led by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, around 9 p.m. Wednesday. Biden said on the call that a shutdown of railways was unacceptable, according to a White House official.

Biden, in his remarks, called the deal a win for America, as well as a win for rail workers and the dignity of work.“This agreement allows us to continue to rebuild a better America, with an economy that truly works for working people and their families. Today is a win, and I mean this sincerely, a win for America,” he said, thanking both business and labor for getting it done

Polymath Bob Shepherd, a frequent contributor to this blog, lives in Florida. He recently received a survey from his member of Congress. He shows how deeply deceptive such a survey can be.

He writes:

I received in my email yesterday yet another transparently biased “survey” from my Flor-uh-duh Congressman Scott Franklin. It read as follows:

Do you support a Parents’ Bill of Rights to increase transparency on what children are being taught in school and how tax dollars are being spent? (yes/no)

Note that the survey DOES NOT ask,

Do you support allowing a handful of backward, provincial, undemocratic, authoritarian, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, white supremacist, Christian nationalist, fundamentalist wackjobs from among the parents in your community to decide what will be taught in your kids’ schools, what books can be in their library, who can teach, and what teachers can and cannot say? (yes/no)

These two questions are in fact equivalent.

The Washington Post reported a new development in the media world. The influential and respected news site Politico was bought by a German billionaire who claims to be nonpartisan. But…

BERLIN — Months after his company bought Politico, Mathias Döpfner stood atop Axel Springer’s 19-story headquarters, gazing out at the double row of cobblestones that mark the outline of the demolished Berlin Wall, and explained his global ambitions. “We want to be the leading digital publisher in democracies around the world,” he said.


A newcomer to the community of billionaire media moguls, Döpfner is given to bold pronouncements and visionary prescriptions. He’s concerned that the American press has become too polarized — legacy brands like the New York Times and The Washington Post drifting to the left, in his view, while conservative media falls under the sway of Trumpian “alternative facts.” So in Politico, the fast-growing Beltway political journal, he sees a grand opportunity.


“We want to prove that being nonpartisan is actually the more successful positioning,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. He called it his “biggest and most contrarian bet.”


How exactly Döpfner, Axel Springer’s CEO, hopes to define nonpartisan journalism at an especially fragmented time for American politics is a question of intense interest as he aims to leave his mark on American media. His own politics have remained something of a mystery, too. But weeks before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, he sent a surprising message to his closest executives, obtained by The Washington Post:
“Do we all want to get together for an hour in the morning on November 3 and pray that Donald Trump will again become President of the United States of America?”

Donald Trump may be the most litigious person in the United States. On March 24, 2022, Trump filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and various Democratic Party leaders for engaging in a conspiracy against him in 2016. The federal judge tossed the case out yesterday.

Believe me, this is a fun read. The judge is frankly mystified by the legal reasoning and the lack of evidence.

Here is the beginning:

I. BACKGROUND
Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on March 24, 2022, alleging that “the Defendants, blinded by political ambition, orchestrated a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Hillary Clinton.” (DE 177, Am. Compl. ¶ 9). On this general premise, Plaintiff brings a claim for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), predicated on the theft of trade secrets,

Case 2:22-cv-14102-DMM Document 267 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/08/2022 Page 2 of 65
obstruction of justice, and wire fraud (Count I). He additionally brings claims for: injurious falsehood (Count III); malicious prosecution (Count V); violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) (Count VII); theft of trade secrets under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) (Count VIII); and violations of the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) (Count IX). The Amended Complaint also contains counts for various conspiracy charges and theories of agency and vicarious liability. (Counts II, IV, VI, and X–XVI).
Plaintiff’s theory of this case, set forth over 527 paragraphs in the first 118 pages of the Amended Complaint, is difficult to summarize in a concise and cohesive manner. It was certainly not presented that way. Nevertheless, I will attempt to distill it here.
The short version: Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants “[a]cting in concert . . . maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 1). The Defendants effectuated this alleged conspiracy through two core efforts. “[O]n one front, Perkins Coie partner Mark Elias led an effort to produce spurious ‘opposition research’ claiming to reveal illicit ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.” (Id. ¶ 3). To that end, Defendant Hillary Clinton and her campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and lawyers for the Campaign and the Committee allegedly hired Defendant Fusion GPS to fabricate the Steele Dossier. (Id. ¶ 4). “[O]n a separate front, Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussman headed a campaign to develop misleading evidence of a bogus ‘back channel’ connection between e-mail servers at Trump Tower and a Russian- owned bank.” (Id.). Clinton and her operatives allegedly hired Defendant Rodney Joffe to exploit his access to Domain Name Systems (“DNS”) data, via Defendant Neustar, to investigate and ultimately manufacture a suspicious pattern of activity between Trump-related servers and a Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin, Alfa Bank. (Id. ¶ 3). As a result of this “fraudulent
2

Case 2:22-cv-14102-DMM Document 267 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/08/2022 Page 3 of 65
evidence,” the Federal Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”) commenced “several large-scale investigations,” which were “prolonged and exacerbated by the presence of a small faction of Clinton loyalists who were well-positioned within the Department of Justice”—Defendants James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Kevin Clinesmith, and Bruce Ohr. (Id. ¶ 7). And while this was ongoing, the Defendants allegedly “seized on the opportunity to publicly malign Donald J. Trump by instigating a full-blown media frenzy.” (Id. ¶ 6). As a result of this “multi-pronged attack,” Plaintiff claims to have amassed $24 million in damages.1 (Id. ¶ 527).
Defendants now move to dismiss the Amended Complaint as “a series of disconnected political disputes that Plaintiff has alchemized into a sweeping conspiracy among the many individuals Plaintiff believes to have aggrieved him.” (DE 226 at 1). They argue that dismissal is warranted because Plaintiff’s claims are both “hopelessly stale”—that is, foreclosed by the applicable statutes of limitations—and because they fail on the merits “in multiple independent respects.” (Id. at 2). As they view it, “[w]hatever the utilities of [the Amended Complaint] as a fundraising tool, a press release, or a list of political grievances, it has no merit as a lawsuit.” (Id.). I agree. In the discussion that follows, I first address the Amended Complaint’s structural deficiencies. I then turn to subject matter jurisdiction and the personal jurisdiction arguments raised by certain Defendants. Finally, I assess the sufficiency of the allegations as to each of the substantive counts.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews Dana Milbank’s new book about the crackup of the Republican Party. As I have often said, Milbank is my favorite columnist in the Washington Post.

Thompson writes:

Dana Milbank’s The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party is based on his quarter of a century of political reporting. From 1992 to the present the Republicans won the popular vote only once. There were calls for diversity in their party in order to reach more voters, but it went in the opposite direction. In the 1990s, the false and polarizing propaganda of Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Sean Hannity, and Fox News took off, as Newt Gingrich became the key political driver of an ideology that would dismantle legislative norms and institutions.

This piece only has room for a brief overview of the 90s. I assume that readers will see and will be shocked by the cruelty and lies of that decade, and how they foreshadow today’s assaults on democracy.

Milbank starts with the suicide of the Clintons’ aide, Vince Foster. Rush Limbaugh, who called the 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton “the White House dog,” claimed, “Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.”

The prime donor of Gingrich’s political training organization, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) was Mellon Scaife. Scaife then joined with Christopher Ruddy, who would become Donald Trump’s friend and informal advisor, to found Newsmax. They said Vince Foster’s death showed that Bill Clinton “can order people done away with … God there must be 60 people who have died mysteriously.” (By the way, such words didn’t keep Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating or Congressman J.C. Watts from helping to lead GOPAC.)

Brett Kavanaugh, who assisted in Ken Starr’s investigations of Bill Clinton and helped draft the Starr Report, knew as early as 1995 that “I am satisfied that Foster was sufficiently discouraged or depressed to commit suicide.” But he spent two years investigating, thus legitimizing, what Milbank called “all of the ludicrous claims.” In Kavanaugh’s files, that were released two decades later, were 195 pages of articles by Ruddy and Limbaugh’s transcript on the case.

Milbank writes that once Gingrich became Speaker of House in 1995, he “threw the weight of the speakership behind the Foster conspiracy theory.” That year, Ruddy, Scaife and Newsmax, would spread the lies further.

(By 2016, Rep. Pete Olson said that Bill Clinton admitted to A.G. Loretta Lynch that “we killed Vince Foster.” And Trump said the charges that Foster was murdered are “very serious.” And Milbank concluded that Justice Kavanaugh was not the most ideological of the Supreme Court’s majority, but he was the most political.)

Milbank explains how rightwingers encouraged violence. After the Waco tragedy of 1993, G. Gordon Liddy said of the ATF agents, “Kill the son-of-a-bitches.” Sen. Jesse Helms said “Mr. Clinton better watch his guard if he comes down here (North Carolina). He’d better have a bodyguard.”

Moreover, even though the Fish and Wildlife Department didn’t have helicopters, Rep. Helen Chenoweth said they were “sending armed agency officials and helicopters” to enforce regulations and “if they didn’t stop, I will be their “worst nightmare.”

In 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Building killed 168 people; Timothy McVeigh said his terrorist act was designed “to put a check on government abuse of power.” But some rightwingers claimed the bombing “was really a botched plot” by the FBI.

Also, Limbaugh asserted, “President Clinton’s ties to the domestic terrorism of Oklahoma City are tangible.” And Gingrich responded by defending the “genuine fears” of rural America regarding the federal government, and doubled down on repealing of the assault weapons ban.

Milbank goes into detail recounting how Gingrich “changed forever the language of politics.” Gingrich quoted Mao saying, “Politics is war without blood.” And he repeatedly made charges such as the Democrats “‘trash’ America, indict the president and give the benefit of every doubt to Marxist regimes.”

In 1977, a year before Gingrich was first elected, Milbank reports that a Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. After 15 years of his “relentless” attacks, that number was down to 18%. Gingrich then undermined congressional norms that encouraged compromise and constructive actions. During his legislative career, committee and sub-committee meetings dropped by nearly half. By 2017, they had dropped by almost 75%. The ability of Presidents to get laws passed was also undermined. Presidents’ legislative victories dropped from 73% of the agenda under Nixon. At the beginning of the Clinton term, he had a victory rate of 87% but by 2016, President Obama’s rate was 13%.

Another pivotal change occurred after the 1996 defeat of Bob Dole. Republican aide Margaret Tutwiler said, “We’re going to have to take on [board] the religious nuts.” A couple of decades later, White evangelicals were only 15% of the US population but about 40% of Trump’s voters.

And with the arrival of Karl Rove’s anti-gay “whisper campaign” against George W. Bush’s opponent, Ann Richards, personal attacks escalated dramatically. Another example of campaign lies was the attack on Sen. John McCain’s mental stability, and the claim he had “fathered an illegitimate black child.” Actually McCain had adopted a daughter from a Bangladesh orphanage.

Although I had been horrified by the behaviors of the rightwing, Milbank’s details provided me a much better understanding of how the views I’ve held allowed me to remain excessively optimistic. I used to believe that it was deindustrialization and the loss of economic opportunity (accelerated by Reagan’s job-killing Supply Side economics) that mostly fed the racism which propelled Trump into the White House. Now I’m convinced by Milbank’s evidence that it was racism – not economics – that spurred Trumpism.

Also, I had misremembered Mitch McConnell’s record in the 1990s. In 1993, McConnell joined Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms in defending the Confederate flag on the Senate floor, saying, “My roots … run deep in the Southern part of the country.” And he stood before a huge Confederate flag at a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

In 1997, McConnell said in a fundraising letter, “Help to protect our country from a potentially devastating nuclear attack.” And he alleged, Clinton’s White House was “sold for ILLEGAL FOREIGN CASH”

I’m assuming that readers of this blog will quickly understand how the Alt Facts spread by politicians like Gingrich are linked to today’s crises. By 2018, only 16% of Republicans trusted the media over Trump. In 2020, people who said they were “very happy” dropped to 14% compared to the previous low of 29%.

Two years later, the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer showed how the worsening rhetoric was putting people in danger. In 2019, hate crimes increased by 30%, and over 18 months in 2020 and 2021, the FBI nearly tripled its domestic terrorism caseload. FBI director Christopher Wray said, “The violence in 2020 is unlike what we’ve seen in quite some time.” And who knows what the numbers are in the wake of Trump’s response to the subpoenaing of the Secret documents?

The 25-year rightwing siege and Trumpism has put our democracy at risk. Being from Oklahoma City, I’m increasingly worried about the chances of bloodshed. And I’m doubly concerned after reading The Destructionists.

In 1994, Vice President Al Gore explained, “The Republicans are determined to wreck Congress in order to control it – and then wreck a presidency in order to recapture it.” Now, Milbank concludes. “A quarter century after a truck bomb set by an antigovernment extremist … Republicans have lit a fuse on democracy itself.”

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe was interviewed by the Washington Post about the Supreme Court. His answers were very informative. He refers to the current Court as “the Thomas court.”

Do you consider the Supreme Court to be in crisis now?


Yes. I have no doubt that the court is at a point that is far more dangerous and damaging to the country than at any other point, probably, since Dred Scott. And, in a way, because we even find Justice [Clarence] Thomas going back and citing Dred Scott favorably in his opinion on firearms, the court is dragging the country back into a terrible, terrible time. So I think that it’s never been in greater danger or more dangerous
….

You testified against [failed 1987 conservative Supreme Court nominee] Robert Bork a long time ago and alluded to the kind of vision that he would have brought had he been on the Supreme Court. Where do you see the justices now on that spectrum — do you consider them to be similar to Bork?


I think there are five Robert Borks on the court right now.


Do you really?


And they are, in fact, probably to his right — that is, Robert Bork at least seemed to believe in preserving those aspects of free speech that conduced to meaningful democratic self-governance. That is, I didn’t see in Robert Bork the disregard for democracy, writ large, that I see in the current Supreme Court majority led by Clarence Thomas. And it is now surely more the Thomas court than it is the Roberts court.
Bork and the current justices, I think, were pretty much in the same place with respect to privacy. They all thought that Griswold v. Connecticut was wrong. And I think Thomas is much more candid than Alito in saying that he would certainly get rid of the right as a people to decide to use birth control, to use contraceptives, to have sex for purposes other than procreation. I think that it’s clear that they are going in that direction.

Take a case like Loving v. Virginia, which should matter to Clarence Thomas, given that he is himself, obviously, in an interracial marriage. There’s no basis for it in the Bork universe because, in the Bork universe, the original meaning of the Constitution is to be derived by what it looked like in 1868 or so. Racial intermarriage was unthinkable at that time. And neither the due process nor the equal protection bases of Loving or of Obergefell [v. Hodges] fit into the universe that Robert Bork envisioned.
What happened to Robert Bork is that he was more candid than people like Barrett,[Brett] Kavanaugh and Gorsuch and Alito and Thomas about their views. Remember when Thomas testified, he said he hadn’t even discussed Roe v. Wade. He barely knew the name of the case. And that, when he was a justice, he would basically be like a runner who would be stripped down bare and would start afresh and have no preconceptions and no agendas. What utter BS. I mean, I don’t expect anyone to come to a court with a blank slate — an empty mind, an empty heart. People bring experiences and ideas. But at least something of an open mind. These people don’t appear to have an open mind. It’s clear, on the things that are agenda items for them, they know exactly where they’re going to come out. And although they don’t literally lie under oath when being asked by Susan Collins, “Do you think this is precedent?” “Oh, yes. Oh, yes, it’s precedent,” they certainly were misleading. So it does feel like Robert Bork redux. It feels like “Back to the Future.” Except it’s back to a terrible past.

Do you think justices can be or ever were impartial? Is that an ideal that can be attained?

The court has always been quite political. And throughout much of our history, it’s been quite regressive. It is kind of a myth that the Supreme Court has been, you know, the shining city on the hill. It’s only during the very brief period from 1957 to 1969 or so, during the [Earl] Warren years, that the court really performed the function of ensuring one person, one vote, and moving toward racial and gender equality. That was a limited period. The court, for most of its history, has been very much in the thrall of economically and politically powerful groups. It retarded the progress after the Civil War by invalidating the civil rights acts and its invalidation of parts of the Voting Rights Act was fairly typical.

So I don’t have any illusion that the court was ever really neutral, nor do I think one can really define a point of neutrality. The idea that judges could be apolitical doesn’t make sense. But they can at least be fair. They can listen. They can give reasons for what they do and not have points of view that are so closed and preset that you might as well have an algorithm as a group of human beings. And what the current court is doing more than any court in our history that I can think of is simply saying, “It’s so because we say it’s so.” And then pull out things that are so transparently not arguments.

The entire interview is fascinating but too long to copy. I hope you can open it and read it.

For example, when Justice Alito says in the majority opinion in Dobbs: Don’t worry, this will have no implications for contraception; it’s special because it involves potential life. Well, of course, so does contraception involve potential life. And besides, he’s equating a definition with an argument. The underpinnings of his theory are that if you don’t find it written down in the Constitution — or in a history that goes back far enough that he’s citing judges who favored burning women as witches — if you don’t find those roots, it doesn’t exist. Well, if you apply that logic, it wipes out whole swaths of rights. So that’s not what I call a fair argument. That’s simply basically saying, you know, “I’ve got the votes, and so shut up.”