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Sen. Collins Was Wrong On Kavanaugh And Abortion Rights

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh voted against abortion rights precedent the court had set just four years earlier — breaking a promise Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said he had made in order to gain her confirmation vote.

During the confirmation process, Collins said she decided to vote in favor of Kavanaugh because he told her he believed "the concept of precedent is rooted in Article III of the Constitution" — and she said that meant he wouldn't vote to overturn abortion rights.

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Chief Justice Rebukes Schumer Over Threats To Gorsuch And Kavanaugh

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Chief Justice John Roberts issued a rare statement on Wednesday denouncing "dangerous" remarks made earlier in the day by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Schumer held a rally outside the Supreme Court on the day it held oral arguments in a case that could prove pivotal in the fight of abortion rights in the United States. At one point, he called out the two justices who were appointed by President Donald Trump and issued a threat.

"They're taking away fundamental rights," Schumer said. "I want to tell you, [Justice Neil] Gorsuch! I want to tell you, [Justice Brett] Kavanaugh! You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price! You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions!"

Watch the clip below:

In response, Roberts denounced the minority leader's attacks in an evening statement:

This morning, Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside. Senator Schurner referred to two Members of the Court by name and said he wanted to tell them that "You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions." Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government arc not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.

Such direct responses to a politician's comments from the chief justice are exceedingly rare. Roberts, in particular, is deeply committed to keeping the court above the political fray as much as possible. One exception to this pattern was his rebuke in 2018 of Trump's remarks about "Obama judges."

As he was then, Roberts was absolutely correct to now to call out Schumer. Justices are not meant to be held accountable for their rulings to the public in the way legislators and presidents are for their policies; they are only subject to impeachment as a check on their power. So there's no plausible excuse for Schumer's threat, and Roberts was right to call it "dangerous."

If, as many fear, the conservatives on the Supreme Court do impose their views on the country beyond what is thought to be acceptable, there could be legitimate avenues for checking the justices' power. These include passing constitutional amendments or even, potentially, changing the size of the court or passing a rule mandating a retirement age. But while these reforms might be warranted, they should not be considered making Kavanaugh and Gorsuch "pay a price.

New Book’s Evidence On Kavanaugh Sparks Calls For Impeachment

A new book by two New York Times reporters suggests that Deborah Ramirez — who claimed that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while both were Yale students — had significant evidence to corroborate her charges. But Republicans seeking to confirm Kavanaugh ensured that her charges were not fully investigated. Now some prominent Democrats, including several presidential candidates, are calling for Kavanaugh to be impeached for lying during his Senate confirmation hearings.

According to The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, which the Times excerpted last weekend, Ramirez described the incident to the FBI in detail:

During the winter of her freshman year, a drunken dormitory party unsettled her deeply. She and some classmates had been drinking heavily when, she says, a freshman named Brett Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it. Some of the onlookers, who had been passing around a fake penis earlier in the evening, laughed.

Ramirez reportedly gave investigators a list of 25 witnesses who could support her allegation but they were hindered by rules imposed by the Senate Republicans and interviewed none of the proposed witnesses. Following up on her charges in a ten-month investigation, however, authors Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly found that “at least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez’s mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge.” Two of those witnesses were Ramirez classmates who learned of the assault just days after the party, “suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time.”

(Here I should note that both Pogrebin and Kelly were my colleagues at the New York Observer — and I continue to hold them in the highest regard.)

Over the weekend, the Times itself came under heavy criticism for an insensitive tweet promoting an article about the book, which described “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party” as seeming “like harmless fun.” The paper subsequently deleted the tweet and instead noted on Twitter that “we deleted a previous tweet regarding this article. It was offensive, and we apologize.”

While President Trump and Senate Republicans continued to defend Kavanaugh, denouncing the new reporting as a “smear,” Democrats demanded a renewed investigation and possible impeachment of the new justice. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) declared in a tweet that Kavanaugh “was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”

In her own tweet, Senator Elizabeth Warren linked him to Trump: “Last year the Kavanaugh nomination was rammed through the Senate without a thorough examination of the allegations against him. Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”


Collins Complains ‘Dark Money’ Undermined Her Support In Maine

Maine voters have begun to sour on Republican Sen. Susan Colllins, and as a result her approval ratings are down by double-digits over the last two years.

On Sunday, Collins blamed the precipitous drop on unnamed “dark money” groups, instead of her support for the Trump administration and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“The divisiveness of our country and the unceasing attacks by dark money groups in Maine have clearly had an impact,” Collins told Bloomberg in an interview about her political future.

She expressed hope that Mainers will “really focus on the [reelection] race” next year and that “I’ll be fine.”

Collins is the second most unpopular senator in the country, behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Collins’ current 45 percent approval rating is 33 points lower than the 78 percent rating she had four years ago.

“Since Trump entered the White House, her approval rating has dropped 16 percentage points,” the Boston Globe noted.

Collins’ decline has occurred in tandem with her support of Trump and the Republican agenda. A study from Congressional Quarterly found that Collins voted with Trump 93.3% of the time — in league with conservatives like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Kennedy (R-LA).

Collins also was out front in supporting Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, despite credibleevidence that Trump’s pick had sexually assaulted a teenager when the two were in high school.

Collins was also a backer of the Republican tax scam passed in 2017, which contained provisions attacking the Affordable Care Act, legislation that Collins has claimed to support.

Collins’ support of Trump hasn’t helped her at home either. Since Trump took office, support in Maine has declined by 19 points. He lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Collins’ decision to blame her woes on dark money is also being questioned, thanks to her own reliance on out-of-state money.

The senator set up a joint fundraising committee with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Trump’s closest allies (and a golfing buddy). Thousands of dollars flooded in.

“She’s come to rely more and more on corporate PACs and out-of-state donors – and instead of trying to fix the problem, she is trying to defend the status quo,” Maine Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Marra said in a statement.

Marra added that Collins has been “voting more with Trump and special interests more than ever on bills that give corporations tax breaks while raising health care premiums and threatening protections for pre-existing conditions.”

Collins’ voting record and decisions in office have moved closer to Trump, while her state — which was never Trump country — has drifted further away from him.

There is ample evidence that voters in Collins’ state are unhappy with the decisions she’s made in recent years, but instead of taking responsibility for her record, she’s blaming her problems on “dark money.”

Published with permission of The American Independent.