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It Took Ye Praising Hitler Before the House Judiciary GOP Took Down Its Infamous Tweet

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On October 3, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West (now Ye) attended Paris fashion week wearing a shirt that said “White Lives Matter.”

Three days later, the Twitter account associated with the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee (ranking member: Jim Jordan) tweeted, “Kanye. Elon. Trump.”

When Ye tweeted on October 8 that he wanted to go “death con 3 on THE JEWISH PEOPLE,” the House Judiciary GOP’s tweet stayed up.

Throughout October, as Ye claimed that a Jewish doctor had misdiagnosed his mental illness; repeated stereotypes about Jews controlling finance and the media; and refused to apologize for his remarks or disavow anti-Semitism, the tweet remained.

Today, after West explicitly praised Hitler on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars podcast, the tweet came down.

“I see good things about Hitler also,” Ye said. “This guy that invented highways, invented the very microphone that I use as a musician, you can’t say out loud that this person ever did anything good, and I’m done with that. I’m done with the classifications. Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.”

Within about an hour of West’s comments going viral on Twitter, the House Judiciary GOP deleted its tweet.

As for a public apology and repudiation of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, well, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


Donald Trump’s Lawyers Might Have Made a Huge Mistake

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During closing arguments on Thursday in the criminal tax fraud case against Donald Trump’s companies, Trump’s attorneys did their best to blame everyone but Trump himself. They told the jury that the alleged fraud was the fault of rogue employees, some of whom had been employed by the Trump family for decades. But after laboring for weeks inside a Manhattan court room to minimize mention of their famous client, attorneys for both Trump-owned companies on trial invoked the former president’s name and discussed his role, which, they insisted, was minimal.

That may have been a major tactical error.

Trump’s companies—not Trump himself—are the defendants in the case. But as soon as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass started his own closing statement, he went straight at Trump, personally. “Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with his top executives,” Steinglass told the jury. His closing was then paused for the evening, set to resume on Friday morning with what Steinglass told the jury will include much more detail about Trump’s role in the alleged tax fraud. The cliffhanger elicited furious protests from Trump’s attorneys, who reiterated as they had throughout the trial that everyone, including the judge and prosecutors, had agreed that Donald Trump the person was not on trial.

But Judge Juan Merchan swatted down that objection, telling Trump’s team late Thursday that they were the ones who had opened the door to direct focus on the former president. “It was the defense who invoked the name Donald Trump numerous times,” Merchan said. 

That was one of a several apparent errors Trump’s defense team made on Thursday, and it set up a potentially dramatic close to the trial when Steinglass finishes his closing statement on Friday. Trump’s attorneys, who have already spoken, will have no opportunity to argue back. 

Their final defense argument started on a rocky note Thursday when they began showing jurors a series of slides that were described as quotes from the trial transcripts of key testimony delivered by witnesses. But following an objection from Steinglass, it turned out that not all of those quotes were accurate. In fact, at least one shown to jurors was something that prosecutors had previously objected to and that Merchan had agreed was to be removed from the official transcript. However, the only thing the defense team had actually removed from the passage before presenting it to jurors was the prosecutor’s objection and the judge’s words agreeing with that objection.

“It’s problematic, and I don’t fault people for being upset about this,” Merchan told defense attorney Susan Necheles, who has represented the Trump Organization in the trial. Necheles was allowed to edit her statement, but throughout the day continued to get scolded by Merchan for repeatedly crossing boundaries of what the attorneys were allowed to tell the jury. 

The case centers on millions of dollars in fringe benefits paid to top Trump Organization employees—benefits like cars, apartments, and even envelopes of cash—that prosecutors say the company provided instead of paying salary. That set-up allowed the company to pay employees more without the employees having to pay income taxes on the benefits, according to the prosecution. This summer, Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud, admitting that he lied on his tax returns about compensation he received from the Trump Organization; he promised to testify against the company but not Donald Trump personally, in exchange for a lighter jail sentence. Weisselberg will be sentenced following the conclusion of this trial, but if prosecutors say he cooperated with their case, they will recommend five months in jail—likely to be served at New York City’s Riker’s Island jail—for the 75-year-old.

Trump’s attorneys used their closing statements to blame all the wrongdoing in the case on Weisselberg and an outside accountant, Donald Bender, who helped prepare the company’s taxes. According to Necheles and fellow Trump attorney Michael van der Veen, who represents Trump Payroll Corp.—one of several hundred subsidiaries of Trump’s business empire—Weisselberg is a confessed tax cheat, and it’s all on him.

“Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” van der Veen repeatedly told the jury. 

Both Necheles and van der Veen tried to belittle Weisselberg and Bender, accusing them of greed and—particularly in Bender’s case—incompetence. Both lawyers mockingly mimicked Bender’s voice on the stand.

Jurors seemed unimpressed, watching stone-faced or with expressions of boredom as the attorneys made their case.

On Friday, Steinglass will continue his closing argument. Jurors will begin deliberations on Monday.

Correction, December 2: Judge Juan Merchan’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.

“Mr. Trump Explicitly Sanctioning Tax Fraud! That’s What This Document Shows!”

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Manhattan prosecutors on Friday flatly accused Donald Trump of helping executives at his companies commit tax fraud. The allegations came during closing arguments of a trial in which the ex-president’s businesses are charged with allowing key employees to reduce their taxable salaries while simultaneously providing them with off-the-record benefits—like company cars and apartments. For much of the trial, both sides told the jury that the case wasn’t about Trump himself. But after defense attorneys continually referred to Trump in their own closing on Thursday, prosecutors took the opportunity to target him directly.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass showed jurors a memo in which Trump signed off on a request by chief operating officer Matthew Calamari, who had asked for his salary to be reduced by the exact amount that the company was spending on his annual rent.

“Mr. Trump explicitly sanctioning tax fraud! That’s what this document shows!” Steinglass told jurors, leading to a flurry of noisy objections from Trump’s attorneys.

New York Superior Court Judge Juan Merchan eventually sided with the defense, but it did little to blunt the prosecutor’s point, and Merchan allowed Steinglass to tell the jurors that Trump knew all about the alleged tax fraud going on at his company. Neither Calamari nor Trump has not been charged with any crime, but Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to scheming to reduce his own taxable income in exchange for more benefits from the company.

Steinglass’ claim follows his statements on Thursday that Trump “knew exactly what was going on with his top executives” and that the Trump Organization as a whole “cultivated a culture of fraud and deception.”

Throughout the month-long trial, defense attorneys have argued that “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg”—that is, they sought to portray him as a powerful executive who used his position to cheat on his own taxes without the knowledge of Trump or the Trump Organization as a whole. In fact, defense attorneys argued, Weisselberg actively hid his misdeeds from Trump and his adult children—he betrayed them.  

Prosecutors were initially content to paint Weisselberg—along with other employees who had helped adjust salaries—as executives of a larger business enterprise that deserved to be held responsible as an institution.

But following the defense’s closing on Thursday, which continually invoked Trump’s name, Merchan ruled that prosecutors, too, were mostly free to talk about Trump.

“This case is not about politics, it’s just two corporations helping its executives cheat on their taxes,” Steinglass said in his closing, echoing what he said during opening statements. 

Trump’s attorneys were visibly irritated in court on Friday morning, and they repeatedly objected throughout Steinglass’ closing almost every time he mentioned Trump’s name.

“I’m here to remind you that Donald Trump is not on trial, and we don’t have to prove a thing about what he knew or didn’t know,” Steinglass said. “But the defense has gone to great lengths to try and disclaim Donald Trump’s involvement.”

“This whole narrative that Donald Trump was blissfully unaware is just not true,” Steinglass told jurors.

After jurors left the room, Trump attorney Michael van der Veen angrily demanded a mistrial over Steinglass’ tone during his closing, including the prosecutor’s statement that Trump had personally sanctioned the tax fraud and another instance in which Steinglass referred to Trump and his adult children as “unindicted co-conspirators,” (Steinglass quickly retracted the latter comment after a rebuke from Merchan.) Van der Veen also complained that Steinglass had referred to van der Veen’s defense strategy as “nonsense.”

Steinglass told Merchan that Trump could be called a co-conspirator because he was involved in one of the specific acts for which a crime had been charged. Merchan said he wouldn’t declare a mistrial because Steinglass had taken back the statements in front of the jury.

Jurors were dismissed for the day and on Monday will return to deliberate.

Walker, Warnock, and the Epic Battle for Georgia’s Soul

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So. Much. Prayer.

Kicking off debates, woven into speeches, and emanating from pulpits serving as campaign pit stops, God is everywhere in the Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Trump-backed challenger Herschel Walker. I grew up in the Southern Bible Belt, and even I’m blown away by the sheer amount of Jesus inundating the campaign as the final vote draws near.

Voters are already turning out in record-setting numbers ahead of December 6 to help determine if Democrats, who clinched the narrowest of Senate victories again in November’s midterm elections, can enjoy a certain measure of legislative breathing room, including more control of Senate committees, as a counterweight to the new Republican House majority.

But if one listens to the mood of the campaigns, the stakes have become, for wont of another word, apocalyptic. 

During recent trips to Georgia to visit family and friends, it became clear that in addition to voting red or blue, voters also will be choosing between two wildly different visions of Christianity itself, as embodied by these two dramatically contrasting candidates: One, whose religious lineage traces directly from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement; the other, who preaches the gospel of right-wing Christian nationalism, where the waters between church and state are muddy and the topics of conversation revolve around incendiary culture war politics. Mother Jones readers don’t need me to point out which is which.

Christianity itself, in other words, is on the ballot in Georgia.

In this new video—my first for Mother Jones—I speak to two religious leaders who are outspoken about this divide, to try to understand the political stakes. But I’m also trying to delve deeper into the religious dynamics of this battle for Georgia’s soul in my conversations with Derek Berry, the senior pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, in Hiram, Georgia, and Rev. Dr. Neichelle Guidy, the dean of Spelman College’s Sisters Chapel in Atlanta.

While Walker-backing Berry wants to rewrite the nation’s laws in God’s image—”I don’t believe the false narrative of the separation of church and state,” he told me—Guidy, a Warnock supporter, sees faith as a vehicle for inclusion.

“I think that he is someone who has not weaponized his faith, but, rather, sees his faith as a vehicle for doing good things,” she said. “Doing justice, love mercy, walking humbly.”

The US Men’s Soccer Team Lost Today, but the Women Won Big

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The United States is out of the men’s World Cup. The US team was eliminated from the tournament after getting trounced by the Netherlands 3-1 in Qatar on Saturday, a disappointing loss for hopeful American fans.

But for the US women’s team, this World Cup represents a major victory—a cash victory.

Under a new labor agreement, as the New York Times’ Lauren McCarthy wrote on Saturday, the women’s team will get an estimated $6 million, an equal split of the prize money awarded to the men’s team for making it to the “knockout” phase. By comparison, the women’s team took home only $5 million when they won the women’s World Cup in France in 2019, and $2 million after taking top honors in Canada in 2015.

Some of the American women players sued the US Soccer Federation in March 2019, alleging that the sport’s governing body had engaged in “intentional gender discrimination.” Four months later, after the US women defeated—yes—the Netherlands to secure the World Cup, the stadium broke out in chants of “equal pay!” The federation heard those chants, apparently. This past February, it agreed to settle the women’s lawsuit.

After the US men defeated Iran 1-0 this week, advancing to the round of 16, the team’s expected earnings totaled at least $13 million. Had they beaten the Netherlands on Saturday, their earnings would have been $17 million. The Times explains:

Under the new agreements, 90 percent of World Cup prize money will be pooled and shared equally between the players on the 2022 men’s World Cup roster and the 2023 Women’s World Cup roster, in a historic move that is unique only to the United States among top soccer-playing nations.

The sharing is reciprocal: When the women defend their World Cup title at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, any earnings will be split with the men’s team.

Now those shared paychecks are finally arriving

Donald Trump Just Weighed In on “#Twittergate”—and I Really Wish He Hadn’t

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On Friday afternoon, Substack writer Matt Taibbi tweeted what he called “The Twitter Files,” a series of internal documents he says he obtained from sources at the social media company. The documents appear to show internal conversations about Twitter’s decision to block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden from its platform in October 2020. New Twitter CEO Elon Musk teased the release of the documents before they published, and shared Taibbi’s posts shortly after, saying, “Here we go!! 🍿🍿

Most notably, the documents shared by Taibbi include email exchanges between employees at Twitter, before Musk took over the company, discussing how to handle the Post story shortly before the 2020 election. Twitter initially blocked sharing of the story due to concerns that it violated the company’s Hacked Materials Policy, but later reversed those restrictions. Taibbi’s thread—or series of posts—quickly ignited a fierce debate on the platform about free speech, intimate photos of Hunter Biden, technology companies’ ability to moderate political news coverage, and Musk’s role in amplifying the documents.

On Saturday, Donald Trump weighed in on #TwitterGate, and called for parts of the Constitution to be thrown out to combat what he characterized as election fraud. The message, which Trump posted on Truth Social, appeared counterintuitive to some observers, as critics of Twitter’s actions largely cited concerns about protecting the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Musk seemed to revel in the controversy he helped create. Not long after Taibbi published his thread, Musk tweeted:

Colorado Investigators Mystified by Dozens of Cattle Deaths

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Investigators in Colorado have been left baffled after dozens of cattle inexplicably dropped dead in a remote corner of the state.

The mystery has triggered a wave of US press coverage, with the New York Post running a headline claiming: “Cattle slaughtered by mystery creature that left no tracks.”

About 40 cows and calves have been found dead near the town of Meeker, in northwest Colorado, in the past two months. Wolves were initially blamed for the deaths, but Colorado Parks & Wildlife officials have since said that only five of the deceased cattle showed wolf-related injuries.

The investigation has since focused on whether the cows could have been infected with a deadly bacteria, but postmortems have revealed no evidence of that, either. The saga is “perplexing,” Travis Black, CPW northwest region manager, told a parks commission in mid-November. “We’re scratching our heads a little bit. We don’t know exactly what has occurred up there.”

A rancher in Meeker first reported the deaths of 18 cattle in October. At the time, CPW officials thought wolves could have slaughtered the animals, but as the number of the dead continued to grow, it emerged that only five showed the hallmarks of a wolf attack, described by Black as “missing tails, bite marks on the hocks and flanks and hamstrings.” There was also no evidence that wolves had returned to their prey, which Black said was unusual.

The Denver Post reported that investigators have used sophisticated technology to determine if wolves are present in the area, including trail cameras and manned flights. The search has also included howling surveys, during which, according to the website All Things Nature, “biologists will stop periodically and howl, and then wait for a response.”

At the culmination of these efforts, Black said: “We have no evidence of wolves in that area.” He added: “That doesn’t mean they’re not there. Sometimes wolves can be difficult to locate.”

CPR News reported that wildlife officers are monitoring a wolf family based in Jackson county, but the wolves’ territory is 100 miles from the location of the cattle deaths.

Officials have also investigated whether the cattle could have had a bacterial infection, Black said. Certain bacteria can lie dormant in a cow before being aggravated by stressful situations, such as being hunted by wolves or dogs.

Examinations of the dead cattle have proved inconclusive, however. The Denver Post reported that microscopic lesions, which typically indicate a bacterial infection, were not present in the animals.

Black said the investigation would continue, and admitted it can take time to find evidence of wolves, but as it stands, there is no explanation for the deaths of the cattle.

“We’re trying not to jump to conclusions here,” Black said.

An Iranian Official Says the Country Has Disbanded Its Morality Police After Months of Fierce Protests

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An Iranian official says the Islamic Republic has abolished its notorious morality police. The decision follows more than two months of protests ignited by the death of Masha Amini, the 22-year-old woman who was arrested and reportedly beaten while under police custody after she allegedly violated the country’s Islamic dress laws.

The move was announced by the country’s attorney general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, during an appearance on state television late Saturday but has not yet been confirmed by other authorities. Questions also remain over what the change would mean for Iranian law, including the decades-old requirement that women wear head coverings. According to the New York Times, Montazeri “went on to suggest that the judiciary would still enforce restrictions on ‘social behavior.'”

Amini’s death quickly sparked some of the largest protests seen in Iran in decades, with many calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. Struggling to quell the demonstrations both at home and abroad, Iran’s security forces have killed at least 326 people since the protests first erupted, a ghastly figure that an Iranian general recently appeared to confirm. Amini’s death and the ongoing brutality against demonstrators prompted widespread outrage around the world and have featured prominently in the protests at the current World Cup events in Qatar. 

Last week, an Iranian man was reportedly shot dead after being seen honking in celebration over the country’s exit from the tournament.


“It Appears All Hope Is Lost,” House Republicans Warn

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Last month, I got an angry email from the Republican Party. I’d just written a snarky blog post about some dubious fundraising solicitations from the House GOP campaign arm—”13X MATCH today only!”—but that wasn’t what they were writing to complain about.

No, they were upset I hadn’t responded to an “exit poll” that would apparently help “secure our elections” (and would also provide another chance to get that 13X match).

“I am absolutely heartbroken that you’ve ignored us time and time again,” wrote Meg at the National Republican Congressional Committee, a few days after the midterm elections.

“At one moment in time, you would have JUMPED at the opportunity to supply House Republicans with the information they need to verify the results of our Midterm Elections,” she added. “But now? You won’t even lift a finger to fill out our two-question exit poll, even though we BEGGED you time and time again to respond.”

Woah.

Look: I get it. There was supposed to have been a world-historical red wave, but there we were—nearly a week after the polls had closed—and it still wasn’t totally clear that Republicans would even win the House. Emotions were high. It sucks when the people you thought you could rely on won’t respond to your messages.

I decided to give the NRCC a couple of weeks to compose itself.

Yesterday, with the House of Representatives safely in GOP hands, I resolved to give the fundraising team another shot. Surely they’d be more upbeat—and more polite!—now.

Nope. Turns out they are still “disappointed” about that 13X match.

“Look, House Republicans FAILED our FIRST End of Month deadline since we FIRED Pelosi!” the NRCC informed me. “Democrats are gleeful. But our Secret Republican Santas are really disappointed because you failed to accept their 13X match.”

It went on like this.

“Our worst nightmare has become a reality: we missed our end of month goal by just $3,409.”

Yikes.

“If things continue down this path, we can say goodbye to our chance at defending our conservative majority in the House. We might lose to Democrats for good!”

Oh dear.

“This is a disaster because our country needs Republican leadership right now.”

A disaster!

“At this time, when it appears all hope is lost, I am relying on you to be the patriot we need to make a difference.”

Uhhhh…

“The future of this nation depends on you,” the email concluded. “You have until midnight!”

Sadly, I missed the deadline.

Americans vote with their feet to find ideological safe spaces

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Political views are dictating where people decide to live or work alongside things such as cost of living and job opportunities, sparking talk of a "Great Decoupling" in which Americans sort themselves by ideology and create deeper shades of red and blue pockets across America.

U.S. sees post-Thanksgiving rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations

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Hospitals are seeing a post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 patients as facilities cope with a higher-than-usual number of patients with flu and a respiratory illness known as RSV.

Bipartisan group of senators eyes passing banking, conviction expungement marijuana bills

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A bipartisan group of senators is reportedly working to deliver pro-cannabis legislation before taking off for the holidays this month.

Majority of voters approve of Elon Musk's push to make Twitter 'free and open,' survey finds

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A majority of voters are taking a positive view of Elon Musk's takeover and overhaul of Twitter, according to a poll released Monday by a conservative group.

Manufacturer gripes about computer chip promotion law as Biden visit looms

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The Taiwan-based company that has emerged as a chief critic of President Biden's efforts to boost computer chip manufacturing in the United States will have a chance to air its grievances in person when Mr. Biden visits the company's $12 billion Arizona construction site on Tuesday.

Ready or not? DHS contradicts itself on looming border surge

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Homeland Security officials promised a top Republican senator's staff that they would be prepared to handle a border surge the moment the Title 42 pandemic policy ended. So why, Sen. James Lankford wonders, did the department then ask a federal judge for a five-week delay in his order ending Title 42?

How Right-Wing Groups Set the Stage for the Supreme Court to Rig Future Elections

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On Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear a bombshell case, Moore v. Harper, that will have enormous ramifications for future elections. The outcome will determine whether state legislatures—many of which are heavily gerrymandered and disproportionately controlled by Republicans—will be granted near king-like status to draw new redistricting maps and pass restrictive voting laws with little to no review by state courts or other entities.

That the Supreme Court is finally weighing in on the so-called “independent state legislature” theory is a testament to the power of the right-wing Federalist Society and its influential co-chairman, Leonard Leo, who have worked for years to place a notion that was once considered fringe and extreme before the highest court in the land.

The independent state legislature theory was first raised during the 2000 election in Florida, when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida Supreme Court from ordering a full recount in the state, which handed the presidency to George W. Bush. In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, wrote that “this inquiry does not imply a disrespect for state courts but rather a respect for the constitutionally prescribed role of state legislatures.”

Rehnquist’s opinion was never adopted by a majority of justices and Bush v. Gore itself was never meant to set a precedent. “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances,” the majority of justices wrote.

The independent legislature issue lay dormant until 2015, when it was rejected by the Supreme Court in a decision upholding Arizona’s independent redistricting commission. It was widely considered by legal scholars to be far outside the mainstream, even among high-profile judicial conservatives. That changed in 2020 with the founding of the Honest Elections Project, which became part of a sprawling network of nonprofit organizations advised by Leo, who oversaw the right-wing capture of the federal courts and recently received a $1.6 billion donation to a group he controls, which will only increase his influence.

The Honest Elections Project has aggressively litigated against efforts by state officials to make voting more accessible during the pandemic and has filed more than a dozen amicus briefs supporting a wide range of voting restrictions, according to research by the watchdog group Accountable.US. That includes supporting a ban on mail ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin, a prohibition on allowing voters to receive food and water while waiting in line in Georgia, and a law disenfranchising people with past felony convictions in Florida who have not paid off all fines and fees resulting from their sentences. After Leo and his allies stacked the courts with radical conservative judges, they now want to use the courts to engineer Republican dominance of state and national politics.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, the Honest Elections Project seized on a case brought by Pennsylvania Republicans, who asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a state court decision allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrived up to three days after the election so long as they were post-marked by Election Day. Such a ruling would have invalidated thousands of mail-in ballots cast disproportionately by Democrats during the pandemic, potentially flipping the state to Donald Trump.

The Honest Elections Project asked the Supreme Court to go further still. In its own supporting brief, the group said the court should not just side with Pennsylvania Republicans but rule that state legislatures could not be constrained in election disputes by state courts or state constitutions, which often contained more expansive protections for voting rights than the US Constitution. “State legislatures are vested with plenary authority that cannot be divested by state constitution to determine the times, places, and manner of presidential and congressional elections,” the group wrote. “This case provides a timely opportunity to put these questions to rest.” 

A week before Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the bench, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4 to 4, upholding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling. But in a flurry of litigation from states including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on the eve of the election, the court’s four conservative justices endorsed the independent state legislature theory advanced by the Honest Elections Project. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote: “the Constitution provides that state legislatures—not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials—bear primary responsibility for setting election rules.”

In the days following the 2020 election, the Trump campaign and its allies peddled a more extreme version of this claim during a full-court press to overturn the results. A lawsuit by Texas seeking to nullify the election in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania alleged that “government officials…usurped their legislatures’ authority and unconstitutionally revised their state’s election statutes.” Trump lawyer John Eastman’s memo to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to reject Electoral College votes cast for Joe Biden opened with the argument that the Constitution “assigns to the legislatures of the states the plenary power to determine the manner for choosing presidential electors.”

Courts and policymakers rejected these arguments in 2020. But in 2021, North Carolina legislative Republicans passed a heavily gerrymandered new congressional map in 2021 that would have given the GOP between 71 to 78 percent of seats in a state where Trump got 49.9 percent of the vote in 2020. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the plan and ordered independent experts to draw new congressional lines; in 2022 that led to an even split in the state’s US House delegation. North Carolina Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court; the Moore case ostensibly concerns whether state courts and state constitutions can constrain the legislature’s ability to draw congressional districts, but Republicans are asking for far more sweeping powers. “The power to regulate federal elections lies with state legislatures exclusively,” North Carolina Republicans argue.  

That would eviscerate checks and balances in state government, give state legislatures enormous power to rig state and national politics, and could even embolden legislatures to attempt to overturn future election results, like Trump wanted them to do in 2020 but now with the veneer of legality. “If state legislatures are unconstrained by gubernatorial vetoes, popular referendums, state courts, state constitutions, those efforts to push the envelope will go even further and will open the door to even more extreme anti-democratic shenanigans,” says Eliza Sweren-Becker, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, which filed a brief opposing the independent state legislature theory.

Given that four conservative justices (Gorsuch, Alito, Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh), have already signaled their support for this theory, that leaves Amy Coney Barrett as the swing justice. That’s an ominous sign for voting rights, given her extreme record during her short tenure on the court and how reliably she has sided with the conservative majority in nearly every major case.

The Honest Elections Project argues in its Moore brief that the independent state legislature theory simply honors “the founders’ choice,” but there’s little historical support for the idea that the founders intended to give state legislatures unfettered authority to control the rules of federal elections. In fact, the US Constitution was conceived in large part to counter the power of the states after the disastrous early tenure of the Articles of Confederation. And one of the key historical documents cited by North Carolina to support its position is widely considered to be a forgery. Nonetheless, the Honest Elections Project argues that the independent state legislature theory “constrains state courts and executives from ignoring or invalidating clear laws passed by the legislature.”

Other parts of the Federalist Society network have amplified this view (although one of the group’s co-founders wrote a pointed brief opposing the theory). A supporting brief by Eastman, who continues to be a member of the group despite being a central figure in federal and state investigations into Trump’s attempt to overthrow the election, asserts that state legislatures cannot be overruled by any other state actor when they regular federal elections. “When performing federal functions, the legislatures of the several states…cannot be constrained by anything in state law or even a state constitution to the contrary,” says his brief filed for the Claremont Institute.

Eastman asks the Supreme Court to overturn previous decisions that allow for independent redistricting commissions, changes to voting laws through state referendums, and gubernatorial vetoes of congressional redistricting maps.

In practice, this would insulate heavily gerrymandered state legislatures from any kind of political accountability. Governors could play no role in the redistricting process, independent redistricting commissions would be invalidated in states like Arizona and California, and laws passed via ballot initiative, such as ranked choice voting in Alaska and Election Day registration in Michigan, would be overturned. Hundreds of state laws could be invalidated and different systems of voting would need to be set up for state and federal elections. “By obliterating large swaths of existing law regulating elections, the independent state legislature theory would create chaos in American elections,” the Brennan Center argues.

The arguments in favor of the independent state legislature theory are all the more remarkable because just three years earlier, in another redistricting case from North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering couldn’t be challenged in federal court, but pointed to state courts and constitutions as a remedy. The ruling did not “condemn complaints about districting to echo into a void,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in Rucho v. Common Cause, noting that “provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply” when addressing partisan gerrymandering.

If the Supreme Court were to overturn Rucho in such a short span of time, that would make it impossible for voters to challenge partisan gerrymandering in state or federal court. Freed from any checks on their authority and granted sweeping new powers from the nation’s highest court, state legislatures would likely be emboldened to take even more brazen steps to undermine voting rights, including potentially trying to overturn election results they don’t like. As the Brennan Center’s Sweren-Becker notes, in 2020 “Eastman was trying to point to the purportedly plenary power of state legislatures to mask an attempt to overturn an election.”

The one bright spot may be the results of the 2022 elections, where Democrats picked up control of four new state legislative chambers—the Michigan House and Senate, Minnesota Senate, and Pennsylvania House—removing the ability of Republicans to rig the political process in critical swing states.

Before the midterms, according to the States Project, which works to elect Democratic state legislative candidates, “anti-democracy” state legislatures controlled 296 Electoral College votes—enough to decide the winner of the presidency.   

After the election, anti-democracy state legislatures control 261 Electoral votes compared to 262 for pro-democracy legislatures (Arizona and New Hampshire are so closely divided they belong to neither camp).

“Those results have reduced the threat,” says Daniel Squadron, co-founder of the States Project, “but they have not eliminated it.”

Former Trump campaign lawyer Harmeet Dhillon running for RNC chair

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Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member from California, announced Monday night that she is running for RNC chair against three-term party leader Ronna McDaniel.

U.S. intel warned Twitter of 'hack-and-leak operation' ahead of Hunter Biden laptop drop

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The former Twitter executive who led the team responsible for suppressing news reports about Hunter Biden's laptop had been warned by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials to be on the lookout for "hack-and-leak" operations ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

REAL ID deadline pushed back again, Homeland Security mandate kicks in May 2025

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Federal officials on Monday moved back the deadline another two years to get your REAL ID with federally mandated security features such as hologram imprints and high-resolution digital facial photos.

Meta threatens to remove news from Facebook if antitrust journalism bill becomes law

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Meta warned Monday that it will consider killing news on its platforms such as Facebook if Congress passes an antitrust journalism bill, teeing up a major clash between Big Tech companies and federal lawmakers before the new year.

Ex-congressman arrested in Venezuela probe

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A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela's socialist government has been arrested in connection to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, law enforcement officials said.

Reported bipartisan deal will grant citizenship to two million 'Dreamers,' toughen border processing

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A report that two senators have struck a tentative deal on granting a pathway to citizenship to 2 million illegal immigrants inflamed debate Monday, with immigration activists saying they hope lawmakers can speed something through before the GOP takes control of the House next year.

Democratic N.H. senators skip White House ball in protest over Biden's 2024 primary plan

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New Hampshire Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan announced they are skipping the White House congressional ball Monday in protest over President Biden's support of a plan to end their state's century-long reign as the nation's first primary.

The press reacts to Herschel Walker and the Georgia election

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The news media is closely following Herschel Walker's quest for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia as voters in the Peach State head for the polls Tuesday. The press has waited for many weeks to witness Mr. Walker's challenge to Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.

White House slams Musk's 'Twitter Files' on Hunter Biden as distraction from hate speech on platform

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The White House on Monday slammed Twitter owner Elon Musk's release of internal documents detailing the company's suppression of news reports in 2020 about Hunter Biden's embarrassing and potentially illegal conduct as a distraction "full of old news."

Calling all non-early voters: Warnock, Walker barnstorm Georgia ahead of Tuesday's runoff election

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Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock rallied Monday with union organizers and campaigned with rapper Killer Mike. Republican Herschel Walker held a virtual rally with former President Donald Trump and appealed to voters in the northern part of the state.

Twitter lawyer who blocked Hunter Biden laptop story helped ignite Trump-Russia probe

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A top Twitter lawyer who supported censoring the bombshell story about the incriminating contents of Hunter Biden's discarded laptop computer in the weeks before the presidential election also helped to set in motion the FBI's investigation into now-debunked allegations that President Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

White House opposes Republican push to lift Pentagon vaccine mandate

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The White House said Monday it would not support Republican efforts to repeal President Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the military, setting up a showdown as Congress takes up this year's must-pass defense policy bill.

Homeland Security grants new deportation amnesty for Haitians

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Homeland Security announced a new deportation amnesty for Haitians on Monday, citing ongoing unrest in the Caribbean nation as a reason the U.S. will allow its citizens who are already here -- including illegal immigrants -- to remain.

Report: Biden administration launches probe into Elon Musk company Neuralink

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The Biden administration is reportedly investigating a company owned by Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
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