Miller Saturday Collection – The “Consensual” Edition – 1/5 – 1/12

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Civil Liberties

  • Trump attacks free speech, demands tough ‘libel laws’ after book speculates on his mental health. In a stunning press event on Saturday, Donald Trump suggested that the revelations made about his mental health in Michael Wolff’s new book ‘Fire and Fury’ show that America needs to limit people’s ability to “say whatever comes to your head” and libel laws need to be tougher. When asked about the book’s explosive claims, Trump said the fact that he went to “the best colleges” is proof that he is an intelligent, stable person. but he couldn’t resist going on a tangent about his mental health when a reporter asked him why he spent Saturday morning tweeting about it.  

  • The press conference was intended to be focused on legislative issues and the Republican Party’s 2018 policy agenda, but Trump had no idea what Senator Feinstein was talking about. Or what love was. Or what he should do about DACA.
  • After further consideration of Wolff’s book, Trump returned to his campaign vow to “open up libel laws.” In a media opportunity on Wednesday with Cabinet members, he stated that “One of the things I’m going to do if I win …  is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” said Trump at a February 2016 campaign event in Fort Worth, Tex. However, public officials like Trump must prove actual malice in libel cases, meaning that false statements about officials are protected unless the reporter published the information with reckless disregard for the truth. The Supreme Court established the actual malice criteria in 1964 with the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan case.


  •  CDC rejects censorship reports: ‘ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it “has not banned, prohibited, or forbidden” the use of the words “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” The Washington Post reported that senior CDC officials in charge of the budget told the agency’s policy analysts that these words should not be used in documents they are preparing for next year’s budget. Democrats had been concerned “that the Trump Administration is yet again prioritizing ideology over science” after reports that agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had banned employees from using words including “fetus,” “vulnerable” and “science-based.”

Hate/Discrimination

  • The Supreme Court turned away a challenge to Mississippi LGBT law on Monday, ending the first legal challenge to a Republican-backed Mississippi law that allows businesses and government employees to refuse to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people because of their religious beliefs.  The justices left in place a June ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the plaintiffs – same-sex couples, civil rights advocates including the head of the state NAACP chapter, a church and others – did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit.  The law, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Governor Phillip Bryant with the backing of conservative Christian activists, has not yet been implemented and more legal challenges are expected, according to gay rights lawyers.
  • Supreme Court sided with a death row inmate over a racist juror claim, paving the way for a black Georgia inmate to challenge his 1991 death sentence for killing his sister-in-law after he argued the case was tainted by a racist white juror who questioned whether black people have souls, years after the trial had ended.  The justices, in a 6-3 unsigned decision, threw out a lower court’s decision that had rejected his biased jury assertion. Monday’s ruling means the case will return to lower courts and gives Tharpe a chance to avoid execution.   Tharpe had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection in a Georgia state prison on Sept. 26 but the Supreme Court granted his last-minute stay application so it could have more time to decide whether to hear his appeal.

Press/Press Restrictions/Media

  • President Donald Trump, who recently said he would announce the “MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR,” has been awarded the title of the world’s most oppressive leader toward press freedom by the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Trump claimed the journalism organization’s top prize for “overall achievement in undermining global press freedom,” and joins four other leaders, including strongmen like Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who “have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.  Trump’s disrespect for the First Amendment is his most obvious offense, CPJ noted, and is so flagrant that leaders in other countries have adopted his “fake news” term for unflattering coverage.   In addition, “under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression.” “As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.”  

Privacy

  • FBI chief: Encryption isurgent public safety issue‘. FBI Director Christopher Wray stated Tuesday that the inability of law enforcement agencies to surpass the strong encryptions on electronic devices poses an “urgent public safety issue.”  Wray said that during the last fiscal year, the FBI failed to break through the powerful protective coding of 7,775 devices, even though they had advanced tools at their disposal and the legal right to access the contents, Reuters reported.  He said the inability to access cellphone data that is “going dark” would impact FBI investigations across the board including counterterrorism, counterintelligence, human trafficking and organized crime.  Much of Wray’s speech at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) in New York was posted on the FBI’s Twitter account.  Wray, who took over as the head of the FBI in August, emphasized that the bureau’s inability to overcome the obstacle of encryption is a “public safety issue.”
  • House extends Surveillance Laws, Rejecting New Privacy Safeguards: Well, that’s just great. The House voted on Thursday to extend the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting a push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to impose significant privacy limits when it sweeps up Americans’ emails and other personal communications. The failed amendment would have banned the practice whereby officials at the N.S.A., the F.B.I. and other security agencies, without a warrant, search for and read private messages of Americans that the government incidentally swept up under the 702 program. Except in emergencies, officials would have needed to obtain a court order to query the repository for an American’s information. The bi-partisan amendment was sponsored by Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, and Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California. It would have substituted in the text of another bill, dubbed the USA Rights Act, which would extend Section 702 by only four years. Well, water under the bridge. The vote, 256 to 164, centered on an expiring law that permits the government, without a warrant, to collect communications from United States companies like Google and AT&T of foreigners abroad — even when those targets are talking to Americans. Congress had enacted the law in 2008 to legalize a form of a once-secret warrantless surveillance program created after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Trump issued a confused posting regarding this, indicating that he may have missed his afternoon nap, leaving Sarah Huckabee Sanders with only the option of directly insulting a reporter to defend him.

    Net Neutrality  

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected calls to delay ending net neutrality rules over a flawed public comment system, saying it had not relied on thousands of identical or suspicious submissions in its decision-making.  “We reject calls to delay adoption of this Order out of concerns that certain non-substantive comments (on which the Commission did not rely) may have been submitted under multiple different names or allegedly ‘fake’ names,” the commission said in its final order released late Thursday.  A study found that more than 7.75 million comments were submitted from email domains attributed to FakeMailGenerator.com, and they had nearly identical wording.The FCC said some of the nearly 23 million comments on Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to gut Obama-era rules were filed under the same name more than 90 times each.      
  • Social Media

  • Is Facebook preparing to open up on fake news?  After months of criticism over their refusal to share data on whether efforts to halt the spread of false news are working, Facebook officials told POLITICO that company has invited representatives from the U.S. fact-checking groups with whom it has partnered to its Menlo Park, CA, headquarters in early February to discuss, in part, what information could finally be shared. This represents a major shift for the social media giant. While it’s unlikely Facebook will fully throw open the vault, the meeting could help thaw what has been, at times, a tense relationship with the fact-checking groups — FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, Snopes, The Weekly Standard, ABC News and The Associated Press — it began enlisting shortly after the 2016 election to sweep the platform for misinformation.  Critics have said that Facebook’s refusal to share data on the year-old program not only makes it impossible for outsiders to gauge its effectiveness, but also has robbed the fact-checkers of crucial information that could help them, ranging from how they should prioritize stories to check to which headline formulations work best on fact-check articles.      
  • Fake News

  • H.R. 4077 – Honest Ads Act.  To enhance transparency and accountability for online political advertisements by requiring those who purchase and publish such ads to disclose information about the advertisements to the public, and for other purposes. – 10/19/2017 Referred to the House Committee on House Administration.
  • S. 1989 – Honest Ads Act  The Honest Ads Act would mandate that internet companies reveal the identities and content of advertisements related to elections or campaigns. Introduced Oct 19, 2017 referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration
  • H.R.3989 – UDA Liberty Act.  To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to clarify and improve the procedures and accountability for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, to extend title VII of such Act, to ensure that the barriers to sharing critical foreign intelligence among the intelligence community that existed before September 11, 2001, are not reimposed, and for other purposes. 10/06/2017  referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. 10/20/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency. 11/08/2017 Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 27 – 8.
  • HR 4124 – USA Rights Act.  Amends foreign intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to protect privacy  10/25/2017  Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), Oversight and Government Reform, and Homeland Security, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of. 11/01/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency. 11/14/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

Immigration

  • ICE Chief Thomas Honan wants to prosecute politicians who won’t lock up more immigrants:  The Trump administration is considering prosecuting state and local officials for not fully cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency’s acting director said Tuesday in an escalation of his threats against so-called “sanctuary cities” and the undocumented immigrants who live in them. Homan’s plan is likely unconstitutional, legal experts say, and the acting director’s argument that sanctuary cities are protecting hordes of dangerous criminals isn’t backed up by his agency’s own data. Recent reports from the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE, show the Trump administration itself is increasingly cracking down on petty offenders, not violent felons.  Homan, who is also President Donald Trump’s nominee to permanently lead ICE, threatened to  increase enforcement efforts in California in response to the state’s new law SB-54. He also wants to hold public officials “personally accountable” and criminally prosecuted under a law against harboring unauthorized immigrants, he said.
  • The first phase of Trump border wall gets $18 billion price tag, in new request to lawmakers:  The Trump administration has told lawmakers that it wants $18 billion over the next decade for the initial phase of a Mexico border wall, laying out for the first time a detailed financial blueprint for the president’s signature campaign promise.  The money would pay for 316 miles of new fencing and reinforce another 407 miles where barriers are already in place, according to cost estimates sent to senators Friday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If the work was completed, more than half of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico would have a wall or other physical structure by 2027.  Democratic lawmakers blasted the $18 billion request, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, and it arrived in the middle of delicate budget negotiations that include the risk of a government shutdown Jan. 20 if no deal is reached.      
  • One Day After Asking Congress For $18 Billion To Fund Border Wall, Trump Still Tries To Convince His Supporters That Mexico Will Pay For It  Trump is continuing his effort to convince his base that not only will “the wall” be built but also that it won’t cost them a cent in tax dollars because the Mexican government will pay for it.  He repeated this claim on Saturday during a press conference — one day after requesting that Congress approve $18 billion in funding for the wall’s construction.  “I believe Mexico will pay for the wall,” he said. “I have a very good relationship with Mexico. But yes, in some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.”  Mexico is still pretty clear on “NO”.
  • To pay for wall, Trump will cut or delay proven border security and surveillance measures, such as radar technology, patrol boats and customs agents in its upcoming spending plan to curb illegal immigration — all measures that officials and experts have said are more effective than building a wall along the Mexican border.  The wall also has become a bargaining chip in negotiations with Congress as lawmakers seek to prevent nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported.  But security experts said the president’s focus on a border wall ignores the constantly evolving nature of terrorism, immigration and drug trafficking.
  • US set to expel around 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants:  The US government is expected to rule Monday that approximately 200,000 Salvadorans living in the country as “temporary” immigrants since 2001 must return to their country.  Last year the Trump administration decided to stop renewing Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for 59,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans residing in the United States for decades, and is expected to make the same decision for the Salvadorans covered under the same program.  While they could be given more than one year to return, the decision would uproot tens of thousands of families with deep roots in the United States, including tens of thousands of children born in the US who are therefore American citizens.  Monday is the deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to rule on extending TPS for the Salvadorans, large numbers of whom live in and around the US capital. Congressional Republicans are also offering to negotiate an extension of TPS protections in exchange for scaling back the diversity visa lottery program. There is a chance of a government shutdown in the next several weeks over the wall and/or DACA.
  • In another proud moment in American history, Trump asked lawmakers why the U.S. should allow immigrants from ‘shithole countries’ in Africa and Caribbean.  After rejecting a bipartisan compromise to the standoff over so-called Dreamers, President Trump asked participants in an Oval Office meeting Thursday why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, according to two people briefed on the meeting.  “What do we want Haitians here for?” the president asked, according to the people briefed. “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?”  The president added: “We should have people from places like Norway.”    Asked about the president’s use of the slur, the White House did not deny it, but issued a statement saying Trump would “always fight for the American people” and that his comments were in keeping with his long-standing position that the we should shift our immigration policy away from poorer, developing countries, and instead focus on carefully selecting educated immigrants, especially from Europe, who can already speak English and have professional or technical skills needed in the United States.  It’s not the first time Trump has made disparaging comments about foreigners and members of minority groups. He has frequently characterized Muslims as terrorists and opened his presidential campaign calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.”  Trump’s statement was met with quick condemnation and the normal hilarity.
  • As per his standard operating procedure when he realizes he’s stepped into it, Trump now actively denies saying‘shithole’,  because, like a 5-year-old, he believes truth is what he wants it to be. President Trump acknowledged Friday that he used “tough” language” during a meeting on efforts toward a bipartisan immigration deal. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made — a big setback for DACA!” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!” Hey, what a great idea!   
  • ‘Here is what my #shithole looks like’: African countries and Haiti react to Trump’s remark  “The African Union Commission is frankly alarmed at statements by the president of the United States when referring to migrants of African countries and others in such contemptuous terms,” said Ebba Kalondo, the spokeswoman for the African Union. “Considering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the U.S. during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.”  She added that the statement was particularly unpleasant coming from the leader of country that is a “global example” of how a strong and diverse country can be the product of migration, and she expressed hope that eventually “the values the U.S. is known for because of its particular experience with migration will come to bear.”  The reaction from the United Nations human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, was uncharacteristically blunt. He described the remark as “racist.”  “There is no other word one can use but ‘racist,’” he said at a briefing in Geneva. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes,’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”  Haiti’s ambassador to the United States condemned the statement and said his country has asked for an explanation of Trump’s comments from American officials.  “In the spirit of the people of Haiti we feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or miseducated about Haiti and its people, ” the ambassador, Paul G. Altidor, said in a statement.      
  • Trump’s Demands To Help DACA/Dreamers Could Doom Deal: President Donald Trump sent senators a lengthy set of demands on Friday that could tank a deal to help Dreamers,  calling for a border wall, more immigration enforcement agents, punishment for so-called “sanctuary cities,” restrictions on citizens and legal residents sponsoring family members’ visas, and policies to make it easier to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. Said Senator Dick Durban “It’s outrageous that the White House would undercut months of bipartisan efforts by again trying to put its entire wish-list of hardline anti-immigrant bills—plus an additional $18 billion in wall funding—on the backs of these young people.”      
  • DACA injunction: What does a federal judge’s ruling means for ‘dreamers’?:  A federal judge’s decision to block the Trump administration’s plans to phase out protections for undocumented “dreamers” brought sharp backlash Wednesday from the White House, which called the injunction “outrageous.”  The order issued late Tuesday by U.S. District Judge William Alsup says safeguards against deportation must remain in place for the nearly 690,000 people in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while a legal challenge to ending the program proceeds.  It remained unclear Wednesday when the DACA recipients, could resume applying for renewals of their work permits as a result of the California ruling, which Alsup said should apply nationwide. Advocates said it would depend on the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the program.  The Trump administration has vowed to challenge Alsup’s ruling.  
  • More than 100 CEOs urge Congress to protect Dreamers, urging Congress to pass legislation to protect the young undocumented immigrants, the looming expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program a “crisis.”  In a letter to House and Senate leaders sent on Wednesday, the group stated, “We write to urge Congress to act immediately and pass a permanent bipartisan legislative solution to enable Dreamers who are currently living, working, and contributing to our communities to continue doing so. The imminent termination of the DACA program is creating an impending crisis for workforces across the country.”  The letter was signed by more than a hundred major executives, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook of Apple, Microsoft president Brad Smith, Amazon’s Brad Smith and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.  The group urged lawmakers to pass legislation by a week from Friday, the deadline for Congress to agree to new government funding to avert a shutdown. DACA is set to expire on March 5, but the business leaders insisted that the government needs time to implement a new program before that deadline.

 Legislation

  • HR 3003 – No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (Passed House) H.R. 3003 is a proposed counterproductive law that targets sanctuary policies that supposedly shield “unlawful and criminal” immigrants from federal immigration enforcement. The bill clarifies ICE’s detainer authority – the tool used to pick up aliens from local jails and withholds certain federal grants from jurisdictions that prohibit their officers from cooperating with ICE. Jurisdictions that comply with detainers are protected from being sued and victims of certain crimes are allowed to sue jurisdictions that refuse to comply and subsequently release “criminal aliens” onto the streets.  Passed house 6/29  motion to reconsider tabled, 7/10/2017 Received in Senate, 8/1/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Labor Standards.
  • HR 361 – Kate’s Law  (Passed House) One of a number of fear-mongering bills from the GOP,  the bill requires that an alien who has been excluded, deported, removed, or denied admission, or who has departed the United States while under an outstanding order of exclusion, deportation, or removal, and who subsequently crosses or attempts to cross the border into the United States, shall be fined, imprisoned not more than two years, or both. Passed house 6/29 Motion to reconsider tabled, 7/10/2017 received in the Senate, 1/22/1992 Unfavorable Executive Comment Received from Treasury.
  • S.87 – Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act. Another GOP fear-mongering anti-immigrant bill to ensure that State and local law enforcement cooperate with Federal officials to “protect our communities from violent criminals and suspected terrorists who are illegally present in the United States” . 12/10/2017 referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
  • H.R.400 – Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act. Another GOP fear-mongering anti-immigrant bill to ensure that State and local law enforcement cooperate with Federal officials to “protect our communities from violent criminals and suspected terrorists who are illegally present in the United States.
  • S.1615Dream Act of 2017  A bill to authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain individuals who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States as children, and for other purposes.  7/20/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. 10/31/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
  • S. 2145  – No Ban on Refugees Act. A bill to prohibit the United States Government from barring refugees from entering the United States based on their country of origin.  Holds the Trump administration accountable for its un-American attempts to ban refugees base 11/16/2017  referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
  • H.R. 3548  – McCaul Border Security for America Act.  (GOP bill Watch) To make certain improvements to the security of the international borders of the United States, and for other purposes. 10/04/2017 Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 18 – 12.

Elections

  • Voter Registration/voting – The Supreme Court Is About to Hear a Case That Could Unleash a New Wave of Voter Purges  Since becoming Ohio’s secretary of state in 2011, Republican Jon Husted has been actively excising  voters from the state’s registration lists. On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in a high-stakes case over whether his controversial methods violates federal law. He  removes voters from the rolls who don’t vote over a six-year period. If a voter in Ohio misses an election, doesn’t respond to a subsequent mailing from the state, and then sits out two more elections, he or she is removed from the registration list, even if this person would otherwise be eligible to vote. Critics of this process say it turns voting into a “use it or lose it” right and will open the door to wider voter purges.  Ohio purged 2 million voters from 2011 to 2016, more than any other state, including over 840,000 for infrequent voting. At least 144,000 voters in Ohio’s three largest counties, home to Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, have been purged since the 2012 election, with voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods twice as likely to be removed as those in Republican-leaning ones, according to a  Reuters analysis.   A federal appeals court ruled in September 2016 that the state’s purging of infrequent voters violated the NVRA, which states that someone cannot be removed from the rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” As a result of that ruling,  7,500 people who had been purged from the rolls were reinstated and were able to vote in the 2016 election.And if the court sides with Husted, it will open the door for states across the country to use what amounts to a legal loophole to cancel the registrations of millions more Americans. Though less well known than other historic forms of voter suppression—such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and all-white primaries—purges have long been used to limit the influence of ethnic and racial minorities. And just like these more explicitly racist policies, purges have frequently been justified as a necessary antidote to voter fraud.
  • The History behind the Ohio Voting Rights Case: Thirty years ago, barely half of eligible voters had cast a ballot in the 1988 presidential election—the lowest voter turnout since the 1920s. In an effort to increase participation, Democrats in Congress—backed by a few Republicans— drafted the National Voter Registration Act, a bill that would require states to allow voters to register at Department of Motor Vehicle offices and other public agencies.  Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, led the opposition to the legislation. “This bill wants to turn every agency, bureau, and office of state government into a vast voter registration machine,” McConnell said in 1991. “Motor voter registration, hunting permit voter registration, marriage license voter registration, welfare voter registration—even drug rehab voter registration.” That same year, McConnell, who is now the Senate majority leader, wrote that “low voter turnout is a sign of a content democracy.”  The NVRA passed Congress in 1992, but President George H. W. Bush vetoed it. Congress passed it again a year later, and this time President Bill Clinton signed it into law, calling it “a sign of a new vibrancy in our democracy. The “motor voter” law, as it became known, was an immediate success. In its first year in effect, more than 30 million people registered or updated their registrations through the NVRA. Roughly 16 million people per year have used it to register ever since.  But in recent years, Republicans have sought to gut the law. In 2013, the Supreme Court weakened a key part of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with long histories of voting discrimination no longer needed to clear their election changes with the federal government. After winning that fight, Republicans are now going after the NVRA in what voting rights advocates say is a thinly veiled effort to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning constituencies to register to vote—and far easier for state officials to remove them from the voter rolls.
  • Ohio says it should be allowed to remove these voters from the rolls under the NVRA, claiming that “a failure to respond to a notice— not a failure to vote—is the sole proximate cause of removal” under its purge program. Ohio adds that if the Supreme Court finds that the NVRA does prohibit its actions, it would raise “serious constitutional questions” about the law. A supporting brief by the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative group that has sued states to force aggressive voter purges, says that if “the NVRA indeed prohibits the states from utilizing inactivity as a factor that leads to deeming a registrant ultimately to be unqualified—as the lower court found—then the NVRA intrudes on the important federalist balance in the Constitution.”
  • In 2013, Kansas implemented a law championed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach that required people to show a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization papers to register to vote. The proof-of-citizenship law ultimately blocked 1 in 7 eligible voters who attempted to register, nearly half of whom were under 30. The ACLU sued, alleging that the law violated the NVRA by preventing people from registering at the DMV. The ACLU won a preliminary injunction in 2016, with a federal appeals court ruling that if the law remained in effect, “there was an almost certain risk that thousands of otherwise qualified Kansans would be unable to vote in November.”  
  • After the election, Kobach drafted federal legislation to amend the NVRA to allow states to require proof of citizenship for registration. He shared his draft with Donald Trump and his top advisers during a meeting in November 2016. Kobach, who later became the vice chair of Trump’s now-defunct election integrity commission, fought relentlessly to shield this proposal from the public and was fined by a federal court last year for telling the court that “no such document exists.”  The ACLU’s case against Kobach is going to trial in March. If Kobach wins, the precedent will allow more states to pass similar proof-of-citizenship laws. If he loses, Kobach will no doubt intensify his efforts to amend the NVRA. “The NVRA has been abused by organizations like the ACLU,” Kobach told the New York Times Magazine last year. “They’ve twisted the words to try and say it prevents proof-of-citizenship laws.”   
  • Voter Fraud (Election Integrity – Now a part of Homeland Security)/ Suppression Trump’s Vote Fraud Panel,  won’t be giving voter information to Homeland Security.  Joseph Borson, a Department of Justice attorney for President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission indicated Friday that the panel will not turn over voter information it collected from states to the Department of Homeland Security.  Trump disbanded the commission on Wednesday, and the White House said DHS would take over the commission’s work of pretending to investigating non-existent voter fraud.  As a federal agency, DHS faces restrictions on how it can collect and use Americans’ personal information that the commission, which was only a federal advisory committee, did not have.
  • On Friday, the ACLU of Florida filed an emergency motion in federal court to block the commission from giving any personal information it collected to DHS. In an email that was included in the ACLU’s filing, Borson said the panel had no intention of turning information over.  “First, as you know, the Director of White House Information Technology (“DWHIT”) is maintaining the data submitted by the States, and has made clear that no other entity or persons beyond a limited number of his technical staff have access to it. We have additionally been authorized to represent that the data will not be transferred or utilized; thus, there is no basis for emergency injunctive relief.”  The comment only adds to confusion about how DHS will take up the commission’s work. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) has said he would be an informal adviser to DHS and told Politico he expected Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run state voter rolls against databases to identify noncitizens on the voting rolls. Experts warn that’s not a reliable way to identify people illegally on the rolls.     
  • A Federal Court Just Made it a Lot Easier for Republicans to Block the Vote.  On Tuesday, a federal judge allowed a thirty-five year old court settlement prohibiting the Republican National Committee from challenging the eligibility of voters at the polls to expire. The ruling, by District Court Judge Michael Vazquez of New Jersey, could allow the Republican Party to undertake new voter suppression efforts, such as purging voting rolls and intimidating voters at the polls, under the guise of combating voter fraud. The case hinged on Democrats being able to prove a recent violation of the decree, which dated back to the early ’80s.                                                                                                    

Midterms

  • ACLU to storm 2018 midterms:  The American Civil Liberties Union, rarely an active player in national campaigns, is jumping into the 2018 midterms with plans to spend upward of $25 million promoting ballot initiatives and issues in contested races across the country.  Soaring after a banner year — the ACLU raised $93 million online in the 12 months after Donald Trump was elected president, up from $5.5 million the year before, and its membership quadrupled to 1.6 million — the civil rights group is in the midst of a dramatic makeover. The group aims to rival the National Rifle Association as a force on the left and become a hub of the anti-Trump movement.  “It’s clear that a larger portion of the American public is deeply engaged in politics in a way they’ve never been before,” said Executive Director Anthony Romero — and the ACLU aims to be a hub of liberal political activism.
  • Primaries ahead, McConnell dances on Bannon’s grave:  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies rang in the new year with a week-long celebration of Steve Bannon’s self-immolation. But the festivities may prove to be short-lived. The Republican leader still has a slate of brutal GOP primaries looming in the first half of this year that could jeopardize his party’s hold on the Senate — even with Bannon out of the picture, assuming that his breakup with President Donald Trump and the wealthy Mercer family lasts. Still, McConnell’s team believes — probably with good reason — that their job in 2018 is now significantly easier without Bannon to marshal insurgent forces against incumbent Republican senators and cost the party crucial Senate seats.”    
  • Wisconsin Is Quietly Becoming The Top Senate Race Of 2018 Ask a Democrat what Senate races worries them this year, and Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and North Dakota will likely be near the top. All are states that Donald Trump won in 2016, and the Democratic senators seeking re-election in them have staked out moderate paths to appeal to some of their less liberal constituents.  But increasingly, Democrats indicate that they are worried about Wisconsin. That’s where Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin already has been targeted by an onslaught of outside spending from conservative groups. Party leaders say the odds remain in her favor, but they’re sure not going to take the race for granted.  Conservative groups have so far spent at least $3.1 million against Baldwin, which is more than what all the other Democratic Senate incumbents on the ballot this year have faced combined (under $550,000), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Those figures reflect what these groups have publicly reported to the Federal Election Commission. But the Baldwin campaign has tracked the spending on ads and found there’s even more money flowing into the state that aims to undercut her political fortunes. So-called dark money groups don’t have to necessarily report this spending to the FEC because their efforts don’t specifically call for Baldwin’s defeat.   Nine groups have spent more than $4.7 million on ads that attack Baldwin and/or boost one of the Republicans vying to oppose her, according to her campaign’s tracking          
  • Judges order overhaul of North Carolina GOP’s illegal partisan congressional districts  A three-judge federal panel ordered congressional districts in North Carolina to be redrawn ahead of the 2018 elections, ruling on Tuesday that the current Republican-drawn map was illegal and unconstitutionally partisan.  The judges said the state legislator responsible for the 2016 map had said he drew it to give Republican candidates an advantage. “But that is not a choice the Constitution allows legislative map drawers to make,” the court said.  Ralph Hise, North Carolina’s state Senate Redistricting Chairman, said through a spokeswoman that lawmakers would appeal.
  • Legislation 
  • S 1419  – Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2017 – 6/22/017 referred to  the committee on Judiciary
  • S 2035  – The Securing America’s Voting Equipment, or SAVE – A bill to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to revise the criteria for determining which States and political subdivisions are subject to section 4 of the Act, and for other purposes. – 10/31/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
  • S. 1585 –  DISCLOSE Act of 2017 A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities.
  • HR 2581   the Verify First Act.  –   11/17  16%  Passed House Barletta 6/13/2017  Looking for related Senate Bill (Sec. 2) This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit advance payments of the premium assistance tax credit from being made to an individual unless the Department of the Treasury has received confirmation from the Department of Health and Human Services that the Social Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security has verified the individual’s status as a citizen or national of the United States or an alien lawfully present in the United States.6/13/2017 Passed house. 06/14/2017 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance. 

Legislation to watch out for…

  • H.R. 2093 – Strengthening and Clarifying the 25th Amendment.  This bill provides for an alternative body to transmit a written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of office in accordance with the 25th Amendment.5/1/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice
  • S. 1916 – Automatic Gun Prevention – Semi-automatic weapons are legal in America. Automatic weapons are illegal. But what about a device that converts a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic-like firearm? Such a device, called a bump stock, was used in the Las Vegas massacre last week. The Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, labelled S. 1916 and H.R. 3999, was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL26) within days and would ban bump stock devices12/06/2017 Committee on the Judiciary. Hearings held.
  • HR 3999 – Automatic Gun Prevention – Semi-automatic weapons are legal in America. Automatic weapons are illegal. But what about a device that converts a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic-like firearm?  Such a device, called a bump stock, was used in the Las Vegas massacre last week. The Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, labelled S. 1916 and H.R. 3999, was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL26) within days and would ban bump stock devices10/19/2017   Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations
  • S. 2016  –  No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act of 2017 –  Deeming that there is insufficient protection against global catastrophe, Senator Ed Markey advocated for his bill, which points out that the Constitution forbids presidents from launching wars that have not been declared by Congress, and which includes a ban on using any funds to violate the law by nuking North Korea.  The hearing’s witnesses, and Senators from both major parties, made clear that they did not trust the president to obey laws. In fact, in launching a war, nuclear or otherwise, Trump would violate not only the Constitution but also the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter. The latter also bans threatening war, which Trump does on a regular basis.  Introduced 10/26/2017
  • S. 2047 – Preventing Preemptive War in  North Korea Act of 2017. No funds may be used for kinetic military operations in North Korea absent an imminent threat to the United States without express congressional authorization.
  • S 2148 –  Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2017 : A bill to authorize dedicated domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism. 11/16/2017  referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
  • H.R. 3771 – Special Counsel Integrity Act. Bipartisan legislation which protects the Russia collusion investigation by taking away Donald Trumps ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

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