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

Fresh Supreme Court Leak Reveals Roberts' Role In Abortion Decision

There's now another big leak from The United States Supreme Court, and this one's being unapologetically linked to the court's conservative wing. The Washington Post has a new story in which multiple sources describe how Chief Justice John Roberts was planning to further carve away at Roe v. Wade by giving the court's approval to the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, but wanted to dodge overturning Roe completely.

The Supreme Court's other conservatives, however, essentially told him to pound sand. They wanted a full end to Roe, which is Justice Alito got the plum role of writing a hard-edged, theocratic-premised decision declaring federal abortion rights to be dead based squarely on the premises of his own personal religion and the rantings of an infamous 17th century misogynist and witch hunter.

This is not new news: That Roberts was not on board with the full ramifications of what the Alito wing of the court is pressing for was evident from Alito's draft opinion, which would not exist if Roberts was in the majority because Roberts would never have assigned the most controversial decision of his tenure to the archconservative crackpot Alito to begin with. Alito is known for authoring spite-riddled opinions riddled with dishonesty and omissions to get to his desired end point, which is often simply a long-winded declaration that my personal religious beliefs are supreme and your religious traditions are invalid. He is the voice of the reactionary Republicanism that justifies coup attempts and declares that laws mean different things based on whether a Republican or a non-Republican will be inconvenienced by them. An extremist, through and through.

What's more interesting is that now the court is leaking again, and this time it's quite obviously an intentional leak by conservatives to either prop up Roberts' fast-eroding dignity or to further brag of the conservative wing's willingness to erase Roe outright.

"But as of last week, the five-member majority to strike Roe remains intact, according to three conservatives close to the court who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter," reports the Post. Oh, so now numerous people "close to the court" are leaking information about the court's private deliberations and politics—and we're even allowed to know that it is in fact "conservatives" close to the court who are doing the leaking.

"A person close to the court’s most conservative members said Roberts told his fellow jurists in a private conference in early December that he planned to uphold the state law and write an opinion that left Roe and Casey in place for now. But the other conservatives were more interested in an opinion that overturned the precedents, the person said."

That's a pretty huge leak! (In the before times, it would have been considered such an abhorrent breach of current deliberations that the Post would seek out a conservative crank like Michael Luttig to moan about the "historic" and "tragic" breach of the "confidential deliberative process"—which the Post does, at the end of the piece, so Luttig can say those things about the original Alito leak but not this one. Conspicuously: Not this one.)

So now we've got a whole set of conservatives privy to the court's internal deliberations who are all coming out at once to assert that Roberts wanted to again sabotage Roe by chipping away at its foundations, allowing Mississippi to enact an encompassing 15-week ban despite Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but he was unanimously rejected by the court's other conservatives who all voted to erase Roe entirely.

The motive that comes easiest to mind, when wondering why so many people close to the court are willing to leak deliberations to the press even as John Roberts orders an investigation into the leak of the Alito draft, is legacy-polishing. Roberts may be pressing this new leak himself, in an attempt to distance himself from the extremists and signal to Republican powerbrokers in the Senate and elsewhere that no, he indeed tried to stop his fellow conservatives from doing the most election-rattling thing, and he is still committed to his own brand of judicial activism that knocks away precedents incrementally rather than all-at-once. It is an approach that has allowed Roberts to claim plausible deniability even as the extremism of the opinions themselves keep getting ratcheted up, and one that has damped public anger at his party's reactionary actions by premising each one on an assortment of caveats that muddle the true scope of the outcome.

In this scenario, it's Roberts who is pressuring his allies to leak to the press for entirely self-serving reasons. He's long been devoted to preserving the alleged independence and dignity of the court—even as Republican presidents and senators stuff his court with new members who don't give a damn about those things but instead were chosen for their willingness to embrace extremist opinions—and could be pushing this story as pushback to calls to expand the court, impose term limits, or make other reforms to bring the court into something even vaguely resembling the modern era.

But that's a pretty weak reason for once again shattering the supposed all-important prohibition against leaking internal court decision-making, and there's another possible motive for the leak, from other possible leakers. It is possible the Alito draft was leaked by some conservative close to the court, perhaps some conservative anti-abortion extremist and activist who is married to one of the most conservative justices and who has already shown a willingness to break the laws in any manner the extremists desire, or maybe even not that person, and it is possible that this new leak featuring multiple "conservative" court sources is a simple case of bragging.

The court's most extremist members won, and there's not a damn thing anyone on the court or off it can do about it, and because of that one of the defining culture wars of the last half century is about to be "won" by its devoted soldiers. It doesn't require much imagination to believe that the court's conservatives have been bragging mightily among themselves and to their allies about this outcome, and it doesn't require much imagination to believe that those to whom they've bragged are even now gearing up for very gaudy victory celebrations.

So yes, perhaps those allied with the court's most reactionary justices would be quite happy to leak to the press that John Roberts tried everything in his power to keep the extremists from taking the "boldest" possible action, and not only did the reactionaries reject him, the group even assigned the ever-nasty Alito to write the nastiest majority opinion he and his clerks could muster.

We now know for a fact that multiple "conservatives" close to the court are leaking like the Moskva. Will condemnations again roll in? Will Roberts launch a second investigation to parallel the first?

Well, no. But we still know that it's court-connected "conservatives" doing the leaking because that's how they're willing to identify themselves to us. We just don't know whose boots they're trying to polish by doing it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

How Fox News Cooked Virginia Story To Promote Youngkin's Campaign

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Say what you want about Fox News—and please do say what you want about Fox News!—but you have to admit they're informative. Just this week, I learned something thanks to the crack Fox News team working tirelessly to create fresh new content for American eyeballs. I learned that Fairfax County, Virginia, is populated exclusively by top members of arch-right Republican think tanks and political campaigns. Can you imagine that? An entire Virginia county in which everyone you meet works for a Republican candidate or is a "senior fellow" at something?

Go to Arby's, and the guy making your sandwich is actually a senior fellow at the Conservative Sandwich Institute. Go to pump some gas, and the woman behind the counter of the sketchy convenience store you try to never go into leads a second life as a National Rifle Association board member. Get mugged, and you'll soon learn the person stealing your money is part of a nationwide "libertarian legal organization."

Wait, that last one happens all the time. But the other two are still weird, right?

These are the conclusions that can be drawn from a Fox News report—one that actually aired on actual television—attempting to drum up drama over the supposed cruelty of local school boards that have not sufficiently bowed to far-right paranoia about whatever they think "critical race theory" is, or the trauma of asking children to wear masks, or whatever else stone-cold ignorant pro-Trump fascist boot-polishers are going on about in their twitching Facebook posts.

Fox's "straight news" story featured a set of "Fairfax County parents" wanting to "push back against" the county's school board. They were all very upset over who-gives-a-damn. But as Media Matters quickly determined, all three were actually Republican freaking operatives who were not disclosed as such. The whole thing was rigged!

Parent One: a "notorious" ex-Trump administration Department of Education official currently holding down a position as "senior fellow" at a right-wing think tank.

Parent Two: the freaking chair of "Educators for Youngkin," a group boosting the crackpot Republican gubernatorial nominee by helping to drive the very far-right paranoias Fox is reporting on.

Parent Three: founded a parent's group currently suing the county school board over admission standards—a longtime race-baiting conservative cause.

What are the odds? Imagine picking out three "concerned" parents, and whoops, every one of the three is a Republican activist working to orchestrate the attacks on school boards that Republican candidates are trying to turn into the next big Fake Social Crisis. What are the odds?

Yeah. The whole thing was fake. James O'Keefe-level fake.

The odds are not zero that this collection of "concerned" professional conservative cranks provided the footage themselves, shipping it to Fox prepackaged for Fox viewer consumption. Those things do, after all, happen.

Conservatives have been drumming up new paranoias about what's going on in their local schools ever since the first moments of desegregation. They are absolutely convinced that their children are secretly learning how not to be racist, even when their asshole racist parents don't want them to learn that.

They are convinced that schools are asking children to wear masks during a deadly ongoing freaking lung-destroying organ-tearing pandemic because it is a secret plot to Who The F--k Knows. The first generations to be freed from the horrors of polio are in absolute panic over the thought of vaccinating children, something only the fringes of the pseudoscience fringe considered controversial until Donald Trump sniffed that viruses were just made-up attempts to tarnish his glorious reign of grift and incompetence.

And here comes Fox News, the "serious" news side, like clockwork, to package up the fringe of the fringe and turn it into nationwide party talking points.

Why does this only happen on the conservative side? The New York Times is notorious for presenting Republican operatives as supposed jus' folks. The Washington Post and every other outlet you can name has had a turn at it. But the reporters regularly land on local Republican operatives to present as "concerned parents" or "concerned business owners" or "concerned woman who believes face masks trap and amplify the powers of evil spirits, evil spirits named Timmy and Bob and Chadwick and Timmy Jr., and who advocates for squirting pool-cleaning chemicals up your nose because Bob absolutely hates that and will convince his evil spirit roommates to go hide out in your neighbor's place instead." I can't recall the last time Fox News or the Times or anyone else "accidentally" profiled a parent who "accidentally" turned out to be a Democratic candidate's campaign manager or similar.

Pretty weird, that.

Well, we learned one thing: We learned that Fairfax County, Virginia, is populated exclusively by Republican operatives who don't like their local school board decisions. It's a bit of an odd situation in that it's not clear how the school board became populated with residents who are not uniformly Republican operatives pushing whatever specific talking point Republican election strategists are rushing to Fox News to help convey. Still, such explanations are best left to experts, and there's not a single damn person associated with this story who could be considered one.

Still, it seems like a follow-up story is in order. Are all residents of Fairfax County Republican operatives and surrogates, or just all the parents? Wait—are we even sure all three of these people have kids? At these schools, as opposed to private ones?

Are their kids employed by far-right think tanks too, or is getting your first conservative think-tank gig considered the Fairfax County rite of passage to adulthood?

Rosen Testifies About Trump Coup Attempt At Justice Department

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The full scope of the Trump administration's efforts to nullify an American presidential election is just beginning to come into view. Trump and his top allies engaged in an orchestrated, three-pronged plan to use federal officials to cast illegitimate doubts on the integrity of the election, explicitly pressure state officials to "find" votes or otherwise alter vote totals, and counter the official congressional acknowledgement of the election's results with an organized mob assembled specifically to "march" to the Capitol and intimidate the lawmakers carrying out that constitutionally mandated process. It was an attempted coup by Trump and his deputies, one that Trump himself continued to press even after that coup had exploded into violence.

The New York Times reported that Trump's acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, gave closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday. The subject of the testimony was the interactions between Rosen and Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark as Clark attempted, on Trump's behalf, to press the Justice Department into issuing false claims suggesting that they were investigating election "fraud" of the sort that Trump's propagandists were claiming as the reason for Trump's loss. It was untrue, and the top two Justice officials rejected Clark's repeated proposals.

Transparently, it was an attempt by Clark and other Trump allies to throw the nation into chaos by claiming the election was so flawed that its results must be overturned—a claim which Trump's hard-right team believed would force the assembling Congress to erase the election's counted votes and, somehow, reinstall Trump as quasilegal national leader.

All three elements of the plan came perilously close to succeeding. All three were thwarted only because individuals remained in place who believed the plan to be insanity, sedition, or both. It is the efforts by Trump-aligned officials within the federal government, using the tools granted to them by government, that elevate the events culminating in violence on January 6 from insurrection to attempted coup.

In a pivotal decision, Rosen rejected Clark's attempt, leading to yet another internal administration crisis as Trump mulled whether to fire him and install Clark in his position so that the plan could be carried out.

In a Sunday CNN appearance, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dick Durbin said Rosen had described Trump as being directly involved in Clark's actions. "It was real, very real, and it was very specific."

Significantly, the Times reports that Rosen scheduled his testimony "quickly" so as to allow them to go forward "before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings." That may be a self-serving interpretation of events. As emptywheel notes, Clark's efforts to overturn the election and Trump's aborted move to fire Rosen and install Clark as acting attorney general was the subject of news reporting in January, even before Trump's second impeachment trial took place. The Senate Judiciary began their requests for documents pertaining to the plan near-immediately, and have been battling the Department of Justice for testimony ever since.

A half-year delay in gaining testimony about a "very real" and "very specific" attempt to overthrow the duly elected next administration by coup does not make it sound like anyone involved is attempting to provide evidence "quickly."

Most significantly of all, perhaps, is that the United States Senate could have investigated the Trump team's plot during the impeachment trial meant to gather evidence and come to judgment on Trump's behavior. For the second time, it did not do so. It avoided examining the evidence, rushing through the trial to again get to the inevitable close of having nearly all Republican lawmakers back Trump's actions, even after they had resulted in violence.

The job now falls to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection: The moves that Clark, Meadows, and other Trump officials made to falsely discredit the election results were intended to provide the backing by which willing insurrectionists could justify their demands that the Constitution be tossed aside for the sake of Trump's reinstallation. The job also falls to federal investigators who now need to examine—swiftly—the criminality of the schemes.

It was not, however, a "Trump" coup. Donald Trump, a known liar and semi-delusional blowhard, had few government powers that would allow him to singlehandedly erase state election counts or make official his declarations that he had lost, after a disastrous single term, only through "fraud" concocted against him. It required the cooperation of top Republican allies, of Republican Party officials, of lawmakers, and others that would press the false claims and work both within and outside of government to give them false legitimacy.

It was a Republican coup, an act of sedition backed with specific acts from Mark Meadows, from Jeffrey Clark, from senators such as Josh Hawley, from state Republican officials who eagerly seized on the conspiracy claims specifically so that they could be used to overturn elections they had lost, and from everyday Republican supporters who decided that the zero-evidence nationalist propaganda they were swallowing up was justification enough to storm the U.S. Capitol by force in an overt attempt to erase a democratic election.

Here we sit, waiting with bated breath as evidence dribbles out describing the full scope of what the entire world saw in realtime, from last November to January: top Republican officials spreading knowingly false, propagandistic claims intended to undermine the integrity of our democratic elections so as to justify simply changing that election's results and declaring themselves the victors. It was a fascist act. It continues in the states, as state Republican lawmakers use the same brazenly false claims peddled by Clark to impose new hurdles to voting meant to keep at least some fraction of the Americans who voted against the party last time from being able to vote at all the next time.

A bit more urgency is required, here.

Congress Summons Postmaster DeJoy To Explain ‘Sabotage’ Of Service

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The sudden collapse of the United States Postal Service's ability to do its core job—deliver mail—is now so widespread a problem as to be stoking enormous public outrage. This may finally result in substantive congressional action—sort of. Perhaps.

House Democrats are now asking (but not subpoenaing) Trump Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Aug. 24 to explain his actions. DeJoy, who remains heavily invested in for-profit competitors to the USPS even as he guts federal mail delivery capabilities, was previously scheduled to appear on September 17; moving his appearance up by several weeks is an indication that Congress no longer thinks waiting until mid-September is defendable. Democrats ask that DeJoy confirm his plan to appear by tomorrow; DeJoy has also been asked to deliver requested documents by Friday, August 21.

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Trump Boasts Of TV Ratings, Berates Media As Thousands Are Dying

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Donald Trump, on Sunday afternoon:

Over 2,300 Americans have now died in the COVID-19 pandemic, due in large part to a government response that was delayed for weeks while Trump, conservative pundits, and his other allies suggested dire warnings of the pandemic’s potential spread were a “hoax” intended to make him look bad. The man is unfit for office; he cannot react to any crisis except as opportunity for self-promotion. Republican leaders continue, even as deaths mount, to offer no pushback to his false claims and incompetent measures.

Iran Declares It Will No Longer Honor 2015 Nuclear Deal

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Responding to the assassination of top military leader Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran has now announced that it is ending all remaining limits on nuclear fuel enrichment described in the 2015 international agreement intended to preclude Iranian development of nuclear weapons.

The New York Times cites an Iranian government release: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will end its final limitations in the nuclear deal, meaning the limitation in the number of centrifuges. Therefore Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production including enrichment capacity and percentage and number of enriched uranium and research and expansion.”

Iran is not fully ending the 2015 nuclear deal; it will continue to allow IAEA inspectors in its facilities. But it will no longer agree to limit its nuclear fuel production in quantity or enrichment. This could allow, if Iran so desired, to rapidly escalate its nuclear program.

The Trump administration had already declared the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other nations to be null and void, imposing new economic sanctions in an attempt to force Iran into new negotiations; other signing nations have attempted to keep the 2015 agreement intact, despite continued administration threats against nations unwilling to enforce the newly demanded sanctions.