The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan lifted the state of emergency in Baltimore on Wednesday, shortly after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the city’s Police Department.

Hogan praised the National Guard and the police officers who “quickly brought calm and order back to the city.”

“We touched every corner of the city we could reach. We saw devastation and destruction, but we also saw incredible acts of kindness,” Hogan said during a televised news conference. “We saw neighbors helping neighbors. We saw a community that cares about each other.”

Rawlings-Blake, who also announced that Baltimore officers would have body cameras by the end of the year, told reporters that she aimed to ensure the department is not engaging in “a pattern of stops, searches, or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment.”

“Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community,” she said. “We have to get it right. Failure is not an option.”

The Justice Department said it is weighing the mayor’s request for a “pattern or practice” investigation.

“The Attorney General is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials, and community faith and youth leaders in Baltimore yesterday,” Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Rawlings-Blake’s announcement comes one day after a visit by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who pledged to improve the police department. Lynch met with members of Freddie Gray’s family, community, civic leaders, and police.

Gray died April 19, a week after he was arrested by Baltimore officers, who had placed him in a police van to take him to precinct headquarters. But Gray, handcuffed with feet shackled, arrived unconscious and with a severed spine.

His death set off days of rioting and tense standoffs between protesters and police. Hundreds of demonstrators set police cars and businesses ablaze, throwing rocks and looting stores.

Of that rioting, Hogan said he “will never forget the lawlessness and violence” but will remember the “individual acts of charity and forgiveness” he saw.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby last week announced criminal charges against the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport. The six, who face charges ranging from assault to second-degree murder, are free on bail.

City officials last year requested the Justice Department’s help in examining police practices and procedures, a long-simmering issue in Baltimore that became more urgent after a Baltimore Sun series found the city had paid nearly six million dollars since 2011 in court judgments and settlements for lawsuits alleging brutality and other misconduct.

Photo: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake via Facebook


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Donald Trump Now Leads An Authoritarian Movement

Politico Magazine published an article Thursday that perfectly embodies the failures of tabloid-style political journalism to address the fundamental dangers facing the country: “145 Things Donald Trump Did in His First Year as the Most Consequential Former President Ever.”

“In ways both absurd and serious, the 45th president refused to let go of the spotlight or his party and redefined what it means to be a former leader of the free world,” the article sub-headline states, sitting above a colorful image containing a photo of a smiling Trump and images that have defined his post-presidency, including his second impeachment, golf clubs, and a vaccination needle.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}