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Late last month, the Trump Organization decided to clear-cut a bunch of large trees at Trump National DC, its golf course in Loudoun County, Virginia. Then, they just threw all the trees in the Potomac River.

However, it turns out that it was a protected area, and therefore removing the trees — not to mention throwing them in the river — was completely illegal.

First there’s the part where tossing the trees in the river is a safety hazard. Then there’s the fact that regulations require permits to cut down trees on that part of the river because it is designated as being prone to flood. Next, this was no small removal operation; Loudoun County officials said that the golf course cleared nearly three-quarters of an acre of land. Finally, removing the trees leads to increased sediment in the water and ends up, eventually, polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

But, apparently, Trump believes his golf courses should not be beholden to any laws, environmental or otherwise. His clubs, for example,  employ massive amounts of undocumented immigrants even as Trump viciously rails against the immigrants who enter at our southern border. Trump also battled the government of Scotland for years because he believed the presence of wind turbines to be an abomination. And at his Bedminster golf course in New Jersey, he was cited by that state’s Department of Environmental Protection when he cut down trees and disturbed wetlands.

This isn’t even the first time that this particular golf course was in the news for clearing trees. Back in 2011, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization had mowed down over 400 trees along the Potomac River, all so that the people paying $100,000 to join and another $700 per month to be members could have a better view of the water.

In a thoroughly Trumpian move, they replaced some of those trees with a giant American flag, and in the process they created an environmental nightmare, leaving migratory birds and bald eagles with nowhere to go.

Not much, it seems, has changed since 2011 at the golf course, which Trump has visited over 40 times since becoming president.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

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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

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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