Remember the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
You know, the probe of possible collusion with a foreign adversary and obstruction of justice by the current president that has already resulted in more than 100 criminal charges against dozens of people, including guilty pleas from President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, former campaign manager, and multiple former advisers?
It’s easy to forget since special counsel Robert Mueller’s team remained even quieter than usual during the weeks before the midterm elections, per longstanding Justice Department policy (memo to former FBI director James Comey), but things are starting to heat up again on the Russia front now that the campaign season has passed.
NBC News reportedly obtained text messages in which Roger Stone, Trump’s former campaign adviser, was informed of WikiLeaks’ plans to release stolen information from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign days before the group starting doing so.
“Hillary’s campaign will die this week,” radio personality Randy Credico, who allegedly served as a conduit between Stone and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign, told Stone via text on October 1 of that year.
As NBC News reports, “the text messages provided by Stone to NBC News show that Credico appeared to be providing regular updates to Stone on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plans in the days before the hacked emails were released.”
Sure enough, WikiLeaks started releasing stolen emails from Clinton’s campaign during that week, on October 7, hours after the “Access Hollywood tape,” in which then-candidate Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, became public. On that day, President Barack Obama’s administration also blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for the first time.
The text messages do not mention former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, as The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand noted, who Stone warned would soon be “in the barrel” on Twitter in August 2016.
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) November 14, 2018
Stone was also told “Julian Assange has kryptonite on Hillary” by Credico in August of 2016, per NBC News’ latest report.
In addition to all of this, Mueller is also reportedly investigating Stone for possible witness intimidation of Credico.
Stone also claimed he had limited contact with Trump’s 2016 campaign, on which he served as an adviser, but emails released last month showed Stone was communicating with campaign chair Steve Bannon around the time that WikiLeaks started sharing the stolen information.
Stone has acknowledged communicating with the hacker Guccifer 2.0 during the 2016 campaign, but that account denied any connection to Russia. However, the U.S. intelligence community assessed “with high confidence” that Russian intelligence was behind both DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, which provided the stolen information about Clinton’s campaign and the DNC to Wikileaks.
As the final votes are tallied and Democrats continue to notch midterm election victories this week, Republican incumbents were toppled in New Jersey and California by opponents who built campaigns focused on affordable and accessible health care.
Former Obama administration official Andy Kim was officially declared the winner in New Jersey’s 3rd district Wednesday, ousting Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). MacArthur was one of the left’s biggest health care foes, and earned the label as “the face of the GOP’s health care repeal” by the health care advocacy group Protect Our Care, as Bloomberg noted.
Last year, MacArthur worked with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows on an amendment to the GOP’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would have allowed insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, which ultimately passed the House.
One week later, Democrats around the country continue to rack up good midterm results
During the campaign, apparently feeling the heat, MacArthur claimed his bill did exactly the opposite, saying in a mailer in July that he would “protect health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions who are trying to obtain affordable health care.”
“Congressman MacArthur is abusing our tax dollars to spread misinformation,” Kim said at the time, according to NJ.com. “He wrote the amendment that gutted pre-existing condition protections and he can’t run away from it. His name is on it — the MacArthur amendment.”
Several thousand miles west, Democrat Josh Harder claimed victory Tuesday in a race that he, too, worked to make about health care issues, ousting incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham (D-CA).
“Every person you will be talking to today has a loved one who would be affected and hurt by that vote,” he said of Denham’s vote in favor of ACA repeal at a campaign stop earlier this month. “For me, it would be my younger brother, David. He was born 10 weeks premature.”
How ‘Medicare for All’ became a rallying cry in California’s most conservative districts
As of the time Harder’s race was called, Democrats had gained more than 30 seats in the House and appear on track to gain between 35 and 40 once all the nationwide counting is complete.
A little further south, two other races are still close to call, including in the 45th district, where Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) faced Democratic challenger Katie Porter, a Medicare for All supporter, and in the 39th District, where Republican Young Kim faced another Medicare for All supporter, Democrat Gil Cisneros.
GOP senate candidate vows to protect people with pre-existing conditions while doing the opposite
In the last weeks before the election, a number of vulnerable Republican incumbents who voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tried to convince voters that they supported protections for people with pre-existing conditions when it became clear that this was a pivotal election issue, as MacArthur did with his mailer in July. A number of Republican Senate candidates across the country tried to stake out this position, including Senator-elect Josh Hawley, who went so far as to release an extremely deceptive ad seeking to recast his record on health care. Notably, Hawley was also part of a lawsuit that, if successful, would have eliminated protections for pre-existing conditions.
Not only did hate crimes altogether rise last year, but the FBI pointed to notable increases in anti-Hispanic and anti-Semitic crimes. Anti-black crimes also substantially outpaced all other race-based hate crimes.
One bill, though, attempts to not only stem the rising tide of hate crimes across the U.S., but to also help Americans get a better handle on where and how these hate crimes take place, and who exactly is targeted.
Numerous anti-Semitic incidents reported across the country since Pittsburgh shooting
The “National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act,” dubbed the “NO HATE Act,” was introduced early last year by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). However, it has languished in Congress over the past 18 months — perhaps due to the fact that the measure has zero Republican co-sponsors. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a similar bill in the Senate in 2017.
Following the release of the new FBI statistics, Beyer issued a call to revisit the bill, and to improve how the U.S. gathers information about hate crimes across the country.
“For the third year in a row, hate crimes across the country have risen, this year by 17 percent… [It] is time for Congress to take action,” Beyer said Wednesday in a statement. “With each passing year, the problem of hate in the United States grows, and it requires Congress to take up and pass the NO HATE Act.”
As Beyer’s office pointed out, a substantial number of law enforcement agencies have failed to file any hate crimes reports over the past decade. Some states even had a majority of their agencies fail to file a single report. While there has been an increase in agencies reporting over the past year — the FBI said an additional 1,000 agencies contributed information this year — the “NO HATE Act” would streamline reporting.
One sub-section of the bill outlines how it would improve reporting, expanding and standardizing the types of information law enforcement agencies should gather relating to potential hate crimes, and help police identify hate crimes when they actually take place.
Another sub-section is devoted to increasing the use of hate crime hotlines, providing a grant for states to manage their own related hotlines. One similar hotline launched in Maryland in 2016, but the “NO HATE Act” would push for financing to start similar hotlines in all 50 states.
And as a final thrust to protect victims of hate crimes, the bill would “establish a federal private right of action” for hate crimes, effectively allowing victims to sue perpetrators in civil court.
The bill has already garnered notable support, including from the NAACP. “For many police departments, the transition to [the standardized hate crime reporting mechanisms] will require additional funding and training. Congress can provide this assistance through legislation, like the NO HATE Act, that incentivizes hate crime reporting,” wrote Maya Berry, the executive director of the Arab American Institute.
With nearly 100 co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate, the momentum for improving hate crime reporting and transparency may finally be building, alongside the ever-increasing need for more information about the state of hate crimes in America.
And while the bill doesn’t mention Trump explicitly, it comes on the heels of the president’s increasingly toxic rhetoric and the increasing number of far-right extremists who support him, and who then proceed to murder or plot domestic bombings. Just weeks after a spate of hate crimes ranging from a grocery store shooting to a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, there’s little sign the trend will end anytime soon.
It is common practice for landlords to deny housing to people who use federal housing vouchers to pay their rent, making it difficult for low-income families to find a safe and affordable place to live. A newly introduced bill that has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate, however, would make this kind of discrimination illegal.
More than 5 million people, including low-income families, elderly or disabled people, veterans, and other vulnerable populations, have access to federal Housing Choice Vouchers, which help cover the cost of their rent and allow them to access safe and sanitary housing in the private market. However, a recent report by the Urban Institute found renters who receive such vouchers are denied housing by landlords at startling rates.
Study finds rampant discrimination by landlords against people who get housing help
The bill, introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who is retiring at the end of his term in January, would expand the Fair Housing Act and ban housing discrimination based on source of income or veteran status, according to Kaine’s office.
A number of cities and states already have such discrimination protections in place, but there are no federal protections on the books, which is what the Kaine-Hatch bill provides.
The bill would carve out new opportunities for many low-income families, according to Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“For too long, discrimination has prevented low income people from living in neighborhoods of their choice including communities with jobs that pay decent wages, good schools, healthcare, and transportation – simply because they rely on federal housing benefits to make ends meet,” Yentel said in a statement. “This legislation is an important step towards righting this wrong.”
It is unclear whether the bill can actually pass. Democrats will not have control of the House until the start of the next term in early January, when its Republican sponsor, Hatch, retires. It’s also unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will decide to take it up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Still, Kaine’s office is hailing the bill as an important piece of legislation.
“As a fair housing lawyer, I witnessed the pain experienced by families who were discriminated against as they searched for a home,” Kaine said in a press release. “Housing decisions should be made on a potential tenant’s merits, not harmful prejudices that hurt the nation’s veterans and families in-need.”
The House climate caucus will not be disbanding in the wake of the midterm elections, according to a caucus representative, despite the bipartisan group losing almost half of its Republican members.
The climate caucus, however, could have a new look and new rules when it reconvenes in early 2019.
As a smaller, tight-knit group, the House Climate Solutions Caucus could be more successful in developing climate legislation, according to Flannery Winchester, communications coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a grassroots environmental group that helped organize the House climate caucus in early 2016.
Many Republicans who joined the caucus were hoping their membership in the group would help their reelection chances. As it turned out, many of these GOP caucus members lost reelection.
At the start of the new Congress in January 2019, the number of Republican members of the climate caucus will decrease from 45 to 24 members. A total of 13 of Republican members of the climate caucus lost their reelection bids, including Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), the group’s co-founder. Several other Republicans retired from Congress.
The midterm elections “were not a referendum” on voters’ views on climate action, Winchester emphasized in an interview with ThinkProgress. Other factors, such as President Donald Trump’s extreme unpopularity in certain congressional districts, were the reason for the defeat of many Republicans members of the group. Their membership in the Climate Solutions Caucus, she said, played no role in their unsuccessful reelection bids.
On the other hand, membership in the caucus may have helped push Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) — who was viewed as vulnerable heading into the midterms — to victory in Pennsylvania’s 1st district in Philadelphia’s northern suburbs, according to Winchester. Along with his membership in the climate caucus, the one-term Fitzpatrick also boasts a 71 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters.
House climate caucus loses its Republican co-founder and almost half its GOP members
Right now, the Climate Solutions Caucus requires an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. In early 2017, the caucus entered a growth spurt. By the time of the midterms, the caucus had 90 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
But now after a roughly 40 percent drop in the number of Republican members, some are questioning how the caucus should move forward.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), one of the group’s Republican members who easily won reelection, wants the caucus to review its membership policy. As it stands now, the caucus does not require an incoming member to have a pro-climate voting record.
With Curbelo’s defeat, Rooney — the group’s newest Republican — is interested in co-leading the caucus with Rep. Ted Deutch (FL), the group’s Democratic co-founder.
Rooney has expressed support for looking at a lawmaker’s voting record before allowing them to join the caucus. Members of a climate-centric congressional caucus should be required to have made a certain number of pro-environment votes, Rooney told the Washington Examiner last week.
“It is important that the caucus not be seen as an ‘in name only’ group, but actually works towards effective bipartisan solutions,” Rooney said Wednesday in an email to ThinkProgress.
Rooney, however, would not support tampering with the Noah’s Ark membership format of the caucus. The current requirement that a Republican and Democrat must be paired together when joining “seems to work well,” he said in the email.
By requiring a certain number of pro-climate votes by prospective members, the caucus could become a stronger force in coming up with solutions to the climate crisis. “I want to make sure the caucus has the kind of teeth that people expect it to have,” Rooney said in the interview with the Examiner.
Rooney, who represents a Republican district in southwestern Florida, favors a permanent moratorium on drilling off Florida’s coastlines. “To safeguard our future, proactive planning is necessary to mitigate effects of rising sea levels and increased intensity of flooding,” Rooney said in a statement in September upon joining the caucus. “I look forward to working with a bipartisan group of my colleagues on solving the problems of sea-level rise.”
In the lead up to, and after the elections, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) said she plans to ask House Democrats to reconstitute the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which operated from 2007 up until 2011.
On Wednesday, however, Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), co-chairs of the Safe Climate Caucus, wrote a letter to Pelosi informing her that they believe existing House committees are adequate to promote climate change policies in the next Congress.
“However, should you decide to create a select committee on climate change in the 116th Congress, we stand ready to work with you,” Beyer and Lowenthal wrote in their letter.
In his email to ThinkProgress, Rooney said he favors discussions with any group in Congress that is working to address climate change.
“Having more voices heard on such critical issues as sea level rise and offshore drilling is valuable and improves the opportunity for bipartisan solutions,” he said. “As a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, I look forward to discussions with all that are willing to have them.”
More than 600 volunteers with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby were in Washington this week to lobby members of Congress on fighting climate change through a carbon fee and dividend, the group’s preferred climate solution.
Ocasio-Cortez joins protesters in Pelosi’s office pushing for bold climate action
On the same day, hundreds of members of the Sunrise Movement converged on Pelosi’s office to urge her to support the idea of a Green New Deal — a national mobilization to transition the U.S. economy away from of fossil fuels and toward renewable energy while creating jobs and building new infrastructure. They said simply re-instating a House committee was not enough.
Dozens of activists were arrested as part of effort to push Pelosi and other Democratic leaders toward strong climate action regardless of potential Republican opposition.
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby views its members’ work as complementary to the actions of the Sunrise Movement and other climate activists. “We are all alarmed about the rapid pace of climate change,” Winchester said. “Just because we’re working in a bipartisan fashion doesn’t mean we’re not alarmed.”
President Donald Trump has made a series of bizarre claims about voter fraud over the years, but his latest might take the cake.
Despite receiving nearly three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Trump insisted that he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal ballots which didn’t exist.
As president, Trump continues to claim that Democrats are trying to “steal” elections in Florida by attempting to ensure that all proper votes are counted, and he floated the wildly dictatorial notion of holding an entirely new election after mail-in and provisional ballots put Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic Senator-elect, over the top for good in the Arizona Senate race.
So we already knew the president of the United States had little to no grasp of the realities of elections and vote-counting well before he spoke with the conservative Daily Caller on Wednesday at the White House.
But buried among his numerous lies about Florida’s still-too-close-to call elections, Trump made an illuminating remark regarding his thought-process on voter fraud.
“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes. When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again.”
The leader of the free world, who has thousands of nuclear weapons at his disposal, then explained how Froot Loops means we should have voter ID.
“If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID. They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.”
So to recap, Donald Trump believes people wear secret disguises so that they can vote illegally, and are asked for photo identification when buying a box of Cocoa Puffs.
This is not the first time Trump has indicated he has no idea how grocery stores work. At a July rally in Florida, the president also mentioned grocery shopping to make a case for voter ID.
An exhaustive ThinkProgress investigation reveals that you do not, in fact, need photo identification in order to buy cereal. Cash is still a widely accepted form of payment across the United States, and many stores do not ask for photo identification when using a credit or debit card.
Trump has previously claimed, without evidence, that “the same person votes many times,” but this appears to be the first time the president of the United States has invoked costumes to explain his theory on voter fraud.
The president disbanded his own voter fraud commission after it was unable to find any evidence to substantiate his claims of irregularities in the 2016 election.
The White House also admitted it had found no evidence of voter fraud in a January court filing.
The “expert witness” brought forward by failed Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach (R), the vice chair of Trump’s defunct voter fraud commission, also admitted there was no evidence of voter fraud in a lawsuit filed over the voter ID law that Kobach oversaw while he served as Kansas’s Secretary of State. The trial turned out to be a disaster for the Trump-endorsed Kansas Republican, who was held in contempt of court for disobeying the judge’s orders, ordered to attend remedial classes for failing to comprehend basic legal concepts, and criticized for plagiarizing the ACLU, before his law was ultimately struck down.
As ThinkProgress has explained, voter fraud is extremely rare.
Shark attacks and lightning strikes are more common occurrences than instances of voter fraud in which a person impersonates another voter and casts a fraudulent ballot under their name. There were just four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election. Two were Trump supporters who voted for Trump twice, one was a Republican who voted for her dead husband, and the fourth was an election worker in Florida who tampered with absentee ballots.
Yemen, a country ravaged by a three-year civil war, its civilian deaths amplified by Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed campaign of relentless airstrikes and forced hunger, has also been one big drone target for U.S. strikes since 2002, with the stated goal of killing off the al-Qaeda fighters there.
It’s never been easy to get access to data on drone strikes — they are often carried out in remote areas, where even local journalists and NGO workers are kept away from strike sites. Most of the areas tend to be rural, with little in the way of census data and coroner’s reports. They also tend to take place in Muslim communities (Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan) where a quick burial is seen as a religious necessity.
The deafening silence on the Saudi strike on a school bus of kids
Despite all of this,an Associated Press investigation, done in conjunction with the U.K.- based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, gives us a horrible glimpse into how the Trump administration has stepped up the drone strikes there.
The investigation found that:
- Since 2017, at least 205 civilians have died by U.S. drone strikes. (Counts vary, though — the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, counted 331 killed during the same period.)
- Under President Trump, the United States has carried out 176 strikes in Yemen so far. During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, there were 154 strikes carried out there.
- At least 88 people in total — militants and civilians alike — have been killed so far this year in Yemen by U.S. drone strikes.
- At least 30 of the dead were likely were not al-Qaeda fighters. Based on interviews with tribal leaders, family members, and witnesses, the AP found that 24 of these were civilians and at least 6 were pro-government fighters,
If nothing else, these numbers might explain the Trump administration’s defense of the Saudi strike that killed dozens of children in a school bus in August.When your death is a secret
This isn’t to say that the strikes never take out al-Qaeda members, nor to say that the strikes under President Trump are intentionally more deadly (in one 2015 raid, the U.S. killed 66 civilians, including 31 children).
All of this comports with what we’ve long known about drone attacks: A 2015 investigation by The Intercept showed that almost 90 percent of people killed in U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan alone were not the intended targets.
But there are far more strikes under the Trump administration, which increases the odds of mistakes — be it acting on bad intelligence, or just operator fatigue. For instance, a January 1 strike killed Mohammed Mansar Abu Sarima, 70, and an unnamed relative, both farmers in Badaya.
“If nobody’s pushing back against that, then you open up a Pandora’s Box of targeted killings where no one is able to uphold a moral stance because nobody actually said something about what the U.S. was doing with covert killings.”
Sarima’s brother, Mohammed Abu Sarim, told the AP, “We don’t have any affiliation. They are simple farmers who don’t know how to read or write. We live in fear. Drones don’t leave the sky.”
Shortly thereafter, 14-year-old Yahia al-Hassbi, a shepherd, was struck by a drone while tending his goats. Also killed was a construction worker who happened to be passing by.
Sometimes, a sustained campaign of strikes, as the one that hit Hadramawt in March, prompts people to try and flee. And when they try, the drones target their cars, killing families.
These deaths might be recorded by the Pentagon, but that database is not being shared, even though President Obama signed an executive order calling for some transparency (far from full) on the number of drone strikes and their casualties.
At the time, activists felt that the executive order was intended more for a future president rather than Obama himself. Well, so much for that. The Trump administration has ignored parts of the order.
“The Obama administration imposed some limited policy constraints on drone strikes aimed at protecting civilians,” said Alex Moorehead, Director, Program on Counter-terrorism, Armed Conflict, and Human Rights at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute.
“However, these were not enshrined in law and the Trump administration moved quickly to loosen these protections, limit their application in places like Yemen and Somalia, and significantly expand strikes in the past two years, putting civilians at much greater risk,” added Moorehead, answering questions via email.Yemeni people gather in front of the parliament building during a demonstration to protest U.S. drone attacks on April 24, 2014 in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. CREDIT:Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
Congress, he explained, has already enacted some important provisions requiring the U.S. military to report on civilian casualties. But more could and should be done.
“Reports provided by the U.S. military last year, while important, lack sufficient detail – for example by providing a breakdown of figures for specific countries that would allow more detailed comparison with the tallies of independent organizations,” said Moorehead.
He said Congress should closely scrutinize the Pentagon’s reporting, and demand detailed explanations that address discrepancies in U.S. military counts with those by independent organizations.
Moorehead is also concerned about the role of the CIA in these strikes, which, he said, remain “almost completely secret, despite reports that the CIA role in carrying out drone strikes will again be expanded under this administration.”
ThinkProgress sent queries to the Pentagon as well as the CIA but did not hear back prior to publication.Bodies that don’t count
Of course whether any of these civilian casualties is even “credible” as far as the U.S. government is concerned is in question. If these places are remote, and records aren’t kept, if these deaths and injuries are unreported, and if the military does not contact the families of those killed, then how can they be counted? And how can practices that lead to their deaths be examined and changed?
Wim Zwijnenburg, program leader of the humanitarian disarmament group at PAX, a Netherlands-based group focusing on the protection of civilians,said that the AP investigation did not surprise him.
“But we had hoped, after the Obama administration policy, they would take cautionary measures, but apparently, those have failed, and children are being killed in drone strikes,” said Zwijnenburg.
Zwijnenburg said it’s largely unknown if the United States is basing its operations on its own intelligence or solely from local sources or foreign partners, how that information is vetted, how they verify that the target is a legitimate one, etc.
U.S. reevaluates relations with Saudi in aftermath of Khashoggi killing
One thing seems pretty obvious: If intelligence prior to the war in Yemen wasn’t great, as the hundreds of civilian deaths suggest — then how strong could it be through the fog of a brutal civil war?
Additionally, the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations fall outside the rules that govern war — that is, the justifiable use of lethal force outside armed conflict. And although the United States supports the Saudi effort in Yemen, where it is carrying out airstrikes in support of the government, the U.S. is not officially at war in Yemen.
“So is that something an American citizen wants to see, where their own government can operate freely, without transparency, carrying out extrajudicial killing — could be with drones, could be also be with manned aircraft or special forces,” said Zwijnenburg.
“If nobody’s pushing back against that, then you open up a Pandora’s Box of targeted killings where no one is able to uphold a moral stance because nobody actually said something about what the U.S. was doing with covert killings,” he added.
But even if one accepts that a government can carry out extrajudicial killings in a foreign country, the outrage over the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul would prove otherwise.
White nationalists involved in planning a deadly 2017 rally in Virginia must hand over their phones and computers for forensic analysis, the judge in a lawsuit on behalf of the victims ordered Wednesday.
The planners behind the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally had hitherto resisted subpoenas aimed at uncovering their full communications leading up to the marches that August weekend. Even after losing on a motion to dismiss the suit entirely earlier this year, the organizers have fought discovery subpoenas vigorously.
Today’s motion should end that resistance, co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs Karen Dunn told ThinkProgress. “The judge is making it clear in this order that the defendants are going to turn over their devices with relevant information, and we are entitled to get the evidence in their possession,” Dunn said. “It [has been] an unreasonable amount of time.”
Portions of the materials covered by today’s order that have previously ended up on the web show rally planners and attendees discussing the potential for violence at length, including conversations about the legality of driving a car through crowds of protesters blocking thoroughfares.
Former KKK leader David Duke, an honored guest at the rally but not a direct target of the suit, tried unsuccessfully to excuse his own correspondence from the case earlier this year. Other defendants, including original rally organizer Jason Kessler and the movement’s modern, media-savvy national face Richard Spencer, had only partially complied with discovery subpoenas.
Such absolutism is unusual in a civil trial’s discovery phase. Normally, parties are trusted to decide what materials are covered by subpoenas and furnish copies to opposing counsel. In this case, lawyers for the plaintiffs persuaded the judge that those decisions about relevance shouldn’t be left to the right-wing racist organizers but made instead by third-party vendors who will image the defendants’ communications devices and then share the results with the court.
The police failed Charlottesville
That the discovery process has taken these convoluted turns does not mean the contents of the rally organizers’ phones will necessarily become public. The defendants can tag materials they believe should be kept confidential under the court’s current orders, at which point any subsequent motions or filings that cite discovery materials deemed sensitive by the court would be filed under seal. Attorneys rarely use filings to dump wholesale discovery materials into the public sphere via attachments, though it does happen occasionally in instances where an attorney decides it’s useful.
Spencer himself has made one such decision, attaching reams of text messages between himself and other Unite the Right organizers to a motion that was not filed under seal earlier this year.
But most of the defendants have both fought discovery of their cell phones and laptops, and withheld their consent to delay the turning over of logs from the online chat service Discord. The tech company says it is ready to comply with subpoenas of the white supremacists’ chatter on that platform pending the legally required consent of the participants, but up to now, the Charlottesville defendants have refused to provide it.
It’s unclear how much new information the public might glean from Discord’s eventual response to subpoenas, as cited in future public filings. Significant portions of the “Unite the Right” preparatory chatter on the service have been published by the alternative news site Unicorn Riot already. Once the lingering issue of Spencer’s consent to Discord is resolved, though, lawyers representing people injured at various locations around the Charlottesville area by the people Kessler, Spencer, and others convened for the rally would have a complete and unfiltered version of that correspondence.
Wednesday’s order also hints that nobody seems to know what’s become of defendant Elliott Kline, who has long used the neo-nazi nomme du guerre Eli Mosley in race-hate online forums and writings.
“Kline’s former counsel shall provide to the Court and Plaintiffs’ counsel Kline’s contact information, including any address, telephone number, and email address that counsel may possess,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe ordered.
Recently, reporters from the New York Times exposed Kline for lying about having seen combat duty in Iraq – just one example from the litany of very public disgraces, setbacks, and criminal troubles that prominent white supremacist mouthpieces linked to the Charlottesville chaos have experienced. Kline’s former counsel did not return calls for comment.
Wednesday’s court order gives all the defendants seven days to provide the consent forms, except for Spencer, who has one week to lodge a formal objection to giving his own consent.
Spencer was carved out from the Discord consent-giving only because his lawyer wasn’t prepared to address the issue on the conference call where it came up, while all other counsel agreed to talk it through. John DiNucci, Spencer’s lawyer, told ThinkProgress he never discusses active cases with the press as a matter of personal policy.
The other lawyers did tell the judge they needed his help to make their clients comply on the Discord issue, another person on the call said. The gist of their response on the matter, the person said, was that they knew as a matter of law there was no argument to justify withholding consent — they’d just been unable to persuade their clients of that, and said it would take a court order to get them to sign the relevant papers.
That sort of stubbornness seems to typify the case, which was filed more than 13 months ago. Discovery does not usually move so slowly or so painstakingly, Dunn said.
“It’s not typical to order parties to turn over their actual devices as opposed to just voluntarily turning over their documents,” Dunn said, adding that it’s taken “an unreasonable amount of time” to get basic discovery compliance here.
Counter-protesters face down far-right activists marching in Washington for ‘white civil rights’
As for the idea that the white supremacists who took violent actions that weekend were only defending themselves, as they’ve consistently claimed, Dunn isn’t impressed.
“All the evidence points the other direction,” she said. “If you know you’re doing something unlawful, you might try to say well let’s talk about it this way because then people might not think it’s unlawful after the fact. But I actually think many of those post-hoc excuses and rationalizations underscore how much they knew that what they were doing was unlawful. When a jury sees the evidence in this case, they will not believe that.”
However the self-defense claims might ultimately fare in court, the broader notion that “alt-right” brawlers and gunmen are reacting rather than initiating violence took another public blow days ago. A D.C. resident who attended the Charlottesville rally was arrested Friday on gun and drug charges after family members alerted law enforcement they were worried he might be planning an attack. The man, an avowed neo-Nazi whose brother had recently died in an apparent suicide, was in touch with Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers online, and both he and his brother had earned a reputation for in-person harassment of political enemies in D.C. Jeffrey Clark had called Bowers’ Pittsburgh attack “a dry run” in a post on Gab, the preferred online outlet for white supremacists and the site where Bowers apparently announced his massacre.
A trial date in the Charlottesville suit is set for July. Should further delays arise, whether due to Spencer or his cohorts acting to delay the discovery process or any other unforeseen circumstance, it is likely the victims’ claims will not be heard until fully two years after the men and women who rallied to Kessler, Spencer, and Mosley’s siren allegedly assaulted the plaintiffs.
After a meeting reportedly attended by no one, which lasted 52 seconds, Utah implemented new rules earlier this week that will allow municipalities in the Beehive State to experiment with ranked choice voting in future elections.
According to Salt Lake City Fox affiliate KSTU, Utah State Elections Director Justin Lee implemented the new pilot program after a meeting in an empty room Monday. “I’ll open it up to any public comment?” Lee said, addressing no one. “Seeing none, we will close the meeting. Thank you.”
Despite the remarkable lack of public input or engagement around the implementation of the program, the actual result has a chance to make local election in the state more Democratic. Ranked choice voting gives voters the chance to rank the candidates based on reference, rather than simply picking one.
Fair elections suffer a terrible loss in court
If one candidate gets a majority of first-ranked votes, they win. If not, candidates are eliminated in rounds. A candidate with many second-tier votes, for example, could still win if no candidate receives a majority.
This gives third-party candidates a fairer shot in elections, while also, as FairVote.org wrote earlier this year, preventing “spoiler” candidates in closely contested races or races with many candidates.
“Ranked choice voting would give voters in Utah the ability to ensure that local policymakers are elected with majority support without the need for expensive and low turnout preliminary or runoff elections, even in races where a large number of candidates run,” FairVote’s Christopher Rhode wrote. “This would have come in handy last year when the City of Provo held its elections for city council and mayor…. The primary election featured nine different candidates for the position. Three contenders…emerged at the top of the pack, each receiving more than 20 percent of the vote while no other candidate surpassed single digits.”
State Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D) has championed ranked choice voting for years in Utah, and she told Fox 13 she hopes it can also help voters overcome some political tribalism.
“Elections, campaigns in general become less vitriolic [when you have ranked choice voting],” she said. “Because as a candidate, I’m trying to persuade not just my base or people that I know for sure are likely to vote for me, but maybe others who might put me second or third.”
As KSTU notes, cities in a few states, including Colorado, California, and Minnesota, have implemented ranked choice voting, and for municipalities in Utah interested in trying, there is a January 1 implementation deadline.
Republican congressman sues to stop vote count, cites made-up provision of the Constitution
So far, the outlet reported, no city has informed the Lt. Governor’s Office it intends to try out ranked choice voting but some cities have reportedly expressed an interest in it.
“We’re also encouraging constituents that would like to do ranked choice voting in their municipal elections next year to reach out to their city leaders and say ‘Yes, let’s give this a try,'” Chavez-Houck told the outlet.
Maine is currently the only state with statewide ranked choice voting, which is currently the subject of a lawsuit in a closely watched congressional race in the state’s 2nd District.
— Bruce Poliquin (@BrucePoliquin) November 14, 2018
Though voters in the state earlier this year voted to move to a ranked choice system, incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) is suing, saying he’s “standing up for…voters who voted against Ranked Choice.”
The suit comes after about 8 percent of voters in the state voted for two independents, Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar. According to the Bangor Daily News, once those ballots are counted, Jared Golden, Poliquin’s Democratic challenger, would become the official victor.
The first “wave” of the migrant caravan has arrived at the southern border, multiple outlets reported Wednesday. With support from an LGBTQ advocacy organization, this group of about 80 mostly-LGBTQ people split off from the rest of the group after experiencing discrimination both from the communities along the way and from fellow travelers.
During a news conference Sunday, Honduran migrant Cesar Mejia explained, “Whenever we arrived at a stopping point the LGBT community was the last to be taken into account in every way. So our goal was to change that and say, ‘This time we are going to be first.'” That mistreatment reportedly included being denied food and access to showers, even by local groups providing aid to others in the caravan.
According to Mejia, advocacy groups reached out after they arrived in Mexican territory and helped bus them ahead to the border. Even as they await the asylum process in a four-bedroom house in Tijuana, locals in their neighborhood are concerned that they are a threat to the community’s safety.
Many of the group’s members fled vicious persecution in their home countries because of their identities. In a story for Cuba’s e-magazine Tremenda Nota and the Washington Blade, Yariel Valdés shared numerous examples of the kinds of violence they are escaping.
Loly Méndez, a trans woman and cosmetologist, for example, said she had been assaulted and robbed by a gang back in El Salvador. “I am thankful to God because they did not take my life, nor did they rape me,” she said. But she also spoke of a friend who was strangled and thrown off a bridge. “People hated her because she already looked like a woman,” Méndez said, adding that she hoped to complete her own transition in the United States.
Kecha Cataleya, a 24-year-old trans woman from Honduras, spoke of being doused with gas and set aflame in 2015. “I can still see the scars,” she told Valdés. She explained that gangs often force trans people to sell drugs and prostitute themselves.
These stories aren’t new, but with President Trump demonizing the caravan as an “invasion,” they have been lost in the narrative. A report from Reuters last year described “epidemic levels of violence” against LGBTQ people in countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The gangs in these countries privilege machismo and target trans women and other queer people for not conforming to those expectations of masculinity. The Inter-American Commission of Human rights noted “high levels of violence against transgender people,” with resulting low life expectancy.
American evangelicals bear significant blame for this culture, as they have exported both their values and their political tactics to Latin American countries, including their opposition to LGBTQ rights.
Such tales of LGBTQ persecution were also relevant to members of a smaller migrant caravan that was traveling to the United States this past spring. One transgender woman spoke of her own tribal community in Nicaragua rejecting her at a very young age, and said she found no escape from persecution elsewhere. Transgender women in that caravan faced discrimination at every leg of their journey, and one woman who made it to the border, Roxana Hernández, later died in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after she was allegedly denied food and necessary medical care while being subjected to miserable detainment conditions.
The United Nations qualifies people fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity as refugees. But last week President Trump imposed new rules allowing him to deny asylum to any immigrant who crosses the border illegally. He claimed that people are using “fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry” into the United States and has in the past repeatedly promised to turn away members of the caravan.
Deadly wildfires raging across California are leaving some of the state’s most vulnerable residents in harm’s way. Farmworkers are still hard at work in the fields, despite danger from smoke inhalation and neighboring flames.
Farmworkers experience direct exposure to smoke and heat in connection with wildfires, but many are unable, or unwilling, to seek help for reasons related to income, immigration status, and other factors. Advocates worry that as fire season grows longer and longer, the dangers these workers face are increasing.
At least 50 people have died amid the deadliest wildfire onslaught in California’s history. A number of fires are currently raging across the state, including the Camp Fire in northern California, which was only around 35 percent contained as of Tuesday, and which has destroyed almost 9,000 structures and killed 48 people.
The Woolsey Fire, meanwhile, is burning west of Los Angeles, and is around 40 percent contained with two casualties confirmed, while the Hill Fire in nearby Ventura County is close to 90 percent contained.
A handful of wealthy Californians — including Hollywood celebrities — have lost their homes in the blaze, but farmworkers are in a far more precarious position. In an email to ThinkProgress on Tuesday, Bruce Goldstein of Farmworker Justice noted that many workers are facing devastating choices as the fires rage.
“The consequences for farmworkers of the fires and other natural disasters tend to be compounded by several factors, including the lack of immigration status for many farmworkers, which causes them to be fearful of coming forward and seeking disaster assistance even when they are eligible for it,” he wrote, pointing to both the health and legal ramifications associated with working near flames.
“Working in the fields is dangerous due to the smoke from fires. Another issue is that most farmworkers have no paid leave and many are not eligible for unemployment compensation, so when they cannot work, they suffer serious economic harm,” he said. “If they are displaced from their homes, they often have very limited options.”
California’s electric utilities under investigation for starting deadly wildfires
California’s wildfire season is naturally occurring, but climate scientists have increasingly connected global warming to the now almost year-round fire season haunting the region. Natural disasters disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color, leaving farmworkers particularly vulnerable.
In states like Florida, researchers have found that climate change is taking an outsized toll on farmworkers, exposing them to extreme heat. Moreover, disasters like hurricanes are becoming more frequent, hurting growing season and displacing farmworkers.
In California, a similar scenario is playing out, as wildfire season becomes longer and more deadly, leaving farmworkers extremely vulnerable to their impacts, along with the incarcerated workers the state uses to battle the flames.
A current advisory from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) shared with ThinkProgress advises that employers take “special precautions” during the wildfires, in addition to providing N95 masks, a disposable filtering respirator.
“Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health,” the advisory notes. “The greatest hazard comes from breathing fine particles in the air, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.”
Whether or not employers will follow the advisory is unclear. During last year’s Thomas Fire, farmworkers continued on in the strawberry fields of Oxnard, a coastal city not far from Los Angeles. At that time, the LA Times reported that many farmworkers lacked masks to protect them from the air until labor rights activists distributed around 2,000 respirators.
Those activists faced pushback from growers, who argued they had offered masks to workers themselves and been denied. Some workers, however, said their employers never offered them masks, leaving them at the mercy of terrible air quality linked to extreme health ramifications.
This year, activists have been working to make sure farmworkers know their rights and have access to specialized masks. But that’s far from easy.
Zuleth Lucero, the South Coast regional coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation, told ThinkProgress on Wednesday that while poor air quality has been a concern in the Ventura County area, she has seen farmworkers this week in the fields either without protection or with less-efficient hospital masks.
“Some of the smoke is still there [but] people are still going to work,” Lucero said, noting that air quality had improved throughout the week but that the risks remain very real. “They will not stop going to work. They [typically] don’t know the consequences, the risks.”
‘Unprecedented’: 3 late-season wildfires are raging in California
Organizations like the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) have also been working to hand out N95 masks, in addition to raising funds for undocumented farmworkers forced to miss work in connection with the wildfires.
Images shared by the organization on Twitter last week show farmworkers at work despite a looming avalanche of smoke in the background caused by the Hill Fire.
Handing out N95 masks with @MICOP805 to farmworkers working during the #Hillfire
Please help out by donating to 805undocufund, to aid farmworkers that lose time off work and are often unable to apply for federal assistance because of immigration status.https://t.co/QwrGRz1mvh pic.twitter.com/qXgNpuaSbV
— CAUSE Oxnard (@CAUSEOxnard) November 10, 2018
While activists are working to set up information sessions and deliver masks to farmworkers, the threat to day laborers comes from all sides.
Many farmworkers are undocumented and fear seeking medical attention when they become ill from the effects of things like smoke. Lucero noted that following recent movements by the Trump administration to label immigrants using public assistance a “public charge,” more and more farmworkers have questions about how seeking aid could impact their jobs and status.
They also fear losing income. Farmworkers are typically paid per piece as opposed to per hour, meaning that any time spent away from their jobs can result in a steep income loss. With families to feed, that alone can be a powerful incentive to stay in the fields, at great personal risk.
Ultimately, Lucero said, all activists can do is offer information.
“We let them know, we help them, we educate them, we inform them,” she said. “We let them know if you get sick at work, it is your right to go.”
Republican Texas state representative and bank CEO Dennis Bonnen announced on Monday he has obtained commitments from 109 of the 150 House members for an upcoming vote to elect the next Speaker of the House and succeed retiring Rep. Joe Straus (R) in January. And though that list includes 31 of the House’s 67 incoming Democrats (the party gained 12 seats in the midterms) and some of the more moderate members of the GOP caucus, Bonnen’s record should raise some red flags.
A green ripple in Texas has major implications for national and local environmental efforts
Most notable was a 2014 incident when he used a deeply offensive ethnic slur to describe children who migrated to Texas after Hurricane Katrina. During a discussion about school resources, Bonnen — then Speaker Pro Tempore — used the racist term “coonass” to describe Cajuns. After a Louisiana official threatened legal action against him, Bonnen offered a fake apology, saying, “I apologize that my use of the term has distracted from the important issue at hand with figuring out whether the federal government is going to be paying for the education of children coming from Central America and helping us secure the border.”
That same year, he was also part of the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC), a group of 63 state lawmakers who filed an amicus brief urging the federal courts to uphold an anti-LGBTQ marriage ban. The pro-discrimination argument compared same-sex marriages to polygamy, pedophilia, and incest.
He also chaired a “Select Committee on Voter Identification and Voter Fraud” in 2011 that pushed for a voter ID law which he bragged was the “strictest” in the nation. Though he claimed it complied with federal law, the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found it disproportionately targeted minority voters, and a federal district judge said that discrimination was intentional. (The law was replaced in 2017 with a somewhat watered down version.)
Bonnen made clear this week that he plans to continue the tradition of bipartisanship in the Texas House, including appointing some Democrats as committee chairs. The Dallas Morning News editorial board wrote on Tuesday that it is “cautious optimistic” about Bonnen as Speaker, “with the emphasis on ‘cautious.'” Given that he voted against a state law that provides free school breakfast to kids, boasted on his 2018 campaign website that he received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association last year, and even listed a 2001 award from Phyllis Schlafly’s Texas Eagle Forum, that caution seems quite warranted.
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) southeastern regional office has been indicted on state ethics charges in Alabama related to his alleged efforts to stop a polluted neighborhood in North Birmingham from being listed on the EPA’s priorities list for contaminated sites.
Last Friday, a Jefferson County, Alabama, grand jury indicted both EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn and his former business associate Scott Phillips on ethics charges. The indictments center around previous work the two performed as consultants to stop the 35th Avenue site from being listed on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), according to AL.com.
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Glenn faced numerous controversies while running Alabama’s state environmental agency and as a private consultant.
In 2017, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt selected Glenn to head the agency’s Region 4, which oversees the agency’s operations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He was sworn into office in August 2017.
In a statement announcing the appointment, Pruitt said Glenn “will help us carry out President Trump’s vision of creating a more streamlined and efficient EPA that focuses on the Agency’s core mission, while also providing more regulatory certainty to our nation’s businesses.”
Citing a news release issued by the Alabama Ethics Commission, E&E News reported Tuesday that the charges against Glenn include conspiracy to break ethics law with Phillips, who sat on the board of Alabama’s environmental agency before stepping down last year.
Other alleged violations include soliciting a thing of value “from a principal, lobbyist or subordinate, and receiving money in addition to that received in one’s official capacity,” the release said.
The EPA had not responded to a request for comment from ThinkProgress at the time this article was published.
During their time at Southeast Engineering and Consulting LLP, Phillips and Glenn worked as consultants for coal firm Drummond Company, in connection with law firm Balch & Bingham, in their efforts to oppose the listing of the neighborhood on the EPA’s Superfund NPL.
Drummond Vice President David Roberson and Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert were convicted of bribery, money laundering, and other charges in relation to efforts to oppose the listing, which included paying a state lawmaker — former Alabama state Rep. Oliver Robinson (D) — to encourage people not to get their soil tested to see if it contained high levels of contaminants.
In October, Gilbert was sentenced to five years in federal prison, followed by a supervised release period of two years, AL.com reported. Roberson was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Each was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine, and ordered to complete 100 hours per year of community service while on supervised release.
Alabama coal exec, lawyer found guilty of bribing politician to oppose EPA Superfund cleanup
Starting in 2013, the EPA was investigating the neighborhood for potential listing on the NPL to receive priority funding for Superfund cleanup of contaminated soil in poor residential neighborhoods largely populated by African Americans surrounded by numerous heavy industrial operations.
The EPA named five industries, including Drummond Company, as potentially responsible parties that could be forced to pay for the cleanup. Drummond, through law firm Balch & Bingham, hired a company run by Glenn and Phillips as consultants to assist in their efforts to defeat the proposed listing of the Superfund site.
Glenn previously headed the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. After leaving the state environmental agency, Glenn worked as a consultant for a number of industries.
An Alabama newspaper columnist described the selection of Glenn to head the EPA’s southeastern regional office as “downright Orwellian.” Glenn is known for having pulled back on enforcing environmental laws in a state already beset with pollution and environmental justice issues. He has also faced other ethics investigations during his career as an Alabama government employee.
An ethics complaint in 2007, for example, alleged Glenn and his family traveled to Walt Disney World and Hilton Head, South Carolina on private flights paid for by public relations firm Matrix, while Glenn worked for the Alabama Office of Water Resources prior to taking over as director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, according to AL.com. Matrix represented Malcolm Pirnie, an environmental engineering firm that did work for the Alabama Office of Water Resources.
Glenn’s “obliviousness to ethics and decorum” prompted a former Alabama Department of Environmental Management lawyer in 2007 to push for a policy to teach him “right from wrong” and to demand that he stop accepting gifts while he served as director of the department, John Archibald, a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, wrote last August, “since the director apparently does not have the good judgment to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
Bill Cosby is less than two months into serving the three-to-ten years to which he was sentenced for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. But another trial already awaits him.
Judy Huth alleges that Cosby molested her at a party at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was only 15 years old. The statute of limitations for criminal charges have long expired, but Huth could file a civil case because she was a minor at the time of the alleged assault.
Tuesday, an LA Superior Court judge set a date for the trial: October 7, 2019.
The reckoning of Bill Cosby: a comprehensive timeline
This trial has been rescheduled before; most recently, it was set for December 3, just weeks from now. But on Tuesday, Judge Craig Kaplan moved it to “accommodate the court calendar and the changed circumstances of Cosby himself,” as Deadline reports.
Huth filed a lawsuit against Cosby in December 2014, alleging sexual battery and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She was the first person to take legal action against Cosby since Constand filed her lawsuit in 2005.
In her lawsuit, Huth says Cosby took her and a friend to a party at the Playboy Mansion, where he told her to lie about her age. She used the bathroom and “emerged to find Cosby sitting on a bed.” Cosby asked her to sit next to him, tried to “put his hand down her pants, then took her hand and forced her to masturbate him.”
Two days after Huth filed her lawsuit, Cosby countersued. Claiming that Huth’s sexual assault allegations were “meritless and unsupported,” he alleged extortion and demanded $33,000 in damages. He also accused Huth of trying to sell her story to the tabloids ten years prior to suing him.
It was just under a year later that Cosby was deposed in Huth’s case by Gloria Allred — marking the first time Cosby addressed allegations of sexual misconduct under oath since his explosive 2005 deposition, in which he admitted to obtaining Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women with whom he wanted to have sex. Two months after giving that deposition, Cosby was arrested and charged in the Constand case.
How Quaaludes got into Cosby’s courtroom
As Deadline notes, Cosby would need to find an East Coast appeal court “both willing to hear his case and overturn the county court ruling” from the criminal trial this year, issued by Judge Steven T. O’Neill, before he could even start the process of seeking parole in 2021.
Thousands of people dialed into a call Tuesday evening to strategize how Democrats can make unprecedented progress on Medicare for All. A week after the midterm elections handed House Democrats the majority, organizers with National Nurses United hosted a conference call with lawmakers, activists, and just about any #M4A enthusiast, outlining how single-payer legislation passes at least one chamber of Congress. By the end of the one-hour call, most unmuted to say “I believe that we will win” — which started off sounding like static noise given the volume of calls but ended on laughs.
“When we have that majority, we need to make sure that we put it to use,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
Jayapal is calling for a committee hearing and vote on H.R. 676, or the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, when Democrats take back the House. She’s asking every one of the 123 co-sponsors — really, every member of the Democratic caucus — to push for debate, as it’s not enough to say they just support legislation anymore. The Seattle representative and co-founder of the Medicare for All caucus is the new legislative lead on the House bill after former Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) left to become the Minnesota attorney general and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) resigned after multiple sexual misconduct accusations.
“This is going to be an inside, outside strategy,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “We are going to do our best on Capitol Hill but we need grassroots support.”
Sanders emphasized the need for loud public support to counter the health sector’s influence, who’s bankrolling anti-M4A efforts. Already, a coalition of insurers, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies have created the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future to lobby against Medicare for All legislation. Physicians for a National Health Program’s Adam Gaffney, who also joined the call, also warned of competing proposals on the Hill.
“It’s time to talk about where we are going and how we are going to get there,” said Bonnie Castillo, executive director of National Nurses United, an active get-out-the-vote group. “We cannot simply rely on the electoral process.”
Medicare for All caucus launches with 66 members
“We are going to give Democrats the opportunity to stand up for the people,” added Nina Turner, of Our Revolution. (Over 70 candidates endorsed by Our Revolution won their races, and nine of them were elected to the House.)
The grassroots movement will target 13 Democrats who haven’t supported H.R. 676 and are on key committees that need to hold a hearing before the bill moves to the House floor. They’ll also target Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who hasn’t co-sponsored the measure and may be Speaker of the House. Organizers intend to flood representatives’ offices with phone calls, stage nonviolent direct actions, and build community engagement with constituent partners to pressure lawmakers. There’s already a big action planned for February; at least 70 percent of people on the call volunteered to participate, organizers told ThinkProgress.
Healthcare-NOW Director Benjamin Day said his group already made progress with Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), who isn’t a M4A sponsor yet. Activists recently canvassed outside grocery stores in his district, asking constituents to phone his office. After more than 250 calls over a two-week period, Kennedy reportedly said he supports single payer but just has a few issues with the bill’s text and is going over it now. “Replicate [this] campaign in your district,” Day advised people on the call.
People on the call were energized, as they saw the midterms as a successful referendum on Medicare for All. A Splinter News midterm election analysis found 57 percent of candidates who endorsed Medicare for All won; these candidates didn’t just endorse the concept but the policy — that is replacing the current private-public insurer patchwork with a single, largely government-run system. Moreover, Democratic candidates who ran in Republican-heavy districts and backed single-payer did better at the polls in 2018 than in 2016.
Democrats have plenty of competing priorities next year, including voting rights, climate change, and the federal minimum wage. That said, members can work on more than one policy; House Republicans passed a health bill, tax overhaul, opioid legislation — to name a few — when they controlled the House. And Democrats did run on health care. The question becomes, what will they do with it?
After President Donald Trump won in 2016 on a platform of nativism, xenophobia, racism, and a false promise that Mexico would fund a giant wall along the U.S.’s southern border, he and his party apparently believed that appeals to bigotry and division were the way to win elections. But while the White House, GOP party committees, allied outside groups, and midterm candidates employed an array of dog-whistle and plainly racist attacks against Democratic candidates, it did not have the desired results in last week’s 2018 midterms.
There were certainly instances in which racist candidates and divisive tactics were successful. Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) appears to have eked out a very narrow win against a black Democrat whom he compared to a monkey. Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) won after smearing his Christian opponent, a Latino-Arab American, of secretly being a “radical Muslim” and a “security risk.” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) was victorious in a close race against an opponent he tied to a convicted cop-killer with race-baiting ads. Though it was much closer than his previous wins, white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) held onto his House seat.
But on a larger scale, the attacks mostly flopped.Xenophobic attacks against Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1)
Republican challenger Wendy Rogers challenged first-term Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) over his opposition to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Her ad called Honduran refugees “invaders” and warned that if O’Halleran and Democrats won, the borders would be “opened” and “our America” would be “gone forever.” Voters didn’t buy it, and they re-elected him easily.Anti-Asian attacks against Andy Kim (NJ-3)
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) has not yet conceded, but it appears almost certain that he lost to Democrat Andy Kim, a national security expert whose parents immigrated from South Korea. The New Jersey GOP sent a racist mailer to voters in the district using images of a fish market juxtaposed next to Kim’s name written in a font similar to Chinese take-out restaurants, and a prominent GOP super PAC ad accused Kim of being “not one of us.” In a debate, MacArthur refused to denounce the attacks and suggested Kim was falsely crying racism to get sympathy.
In a post-election interview, the apparent Congressman-elect Kim observed that the attacks might actually have backfired and helped him, particularly after the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting.Xenophobic attacks against Max Rose (NY-11)
Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) was not expected to lose re-election. But that did not stop him from falsely accusing his Democratic opponent, Afghanistan war veteran Max Rose, of wanting to let violent gangs of immigrants wreak havoc. One Donovan ad accused Rose of supporting “sanctuary cities for gangs like MS-13,” while another inaccurately warned he would abolish ICE.
Rose not only won an upset; he won by 6 points.Racist anti-rapper attacks on Antonio Delgado (NY-19)
Rep. John Faso (R-NY) lost re-election to Antonio Delgado, a 41-year-old lawyer who is black. A prominent GOP super PAC ran multiple ads attacking Delgado for a rap album he made more than a decade ago, dismissing him as a “big-city rapper.” Rather than defend his opponent from the race-baiting ads, Faso joined in, calling Delgado’s lyrics “offensive” (they were pro-social justice) and “inconsistent with the views of the people of the 19th district and America.” The majority of voters in the district disagreed.Xenophobic attacks against Susan Wild (PA-7)
Republican Marty Nothstein, a Lehigh County Commissioner and former Olympic cyclist, ran wildly extremist ads accusing his Democratic opponent of being okay with immigrants raping children. Nothstein’s ad argued that because former Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild supported sanctuary cities, that meant she was okay with violent crimes like a “five- year-old girl raped by ‘an illegal’ given sanctuary in Philadelphia.” While Nothstein may have won a special election to fill the seat in the final weeks of former Rep. Charlie Dent’s (R-PA) 2016 term, he was defeated for a full term by about 10 points.Xenophobic attacks against Abigail Spanberger (VA-7)
Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) ran ads warning that a caravan of migrant refugees traveling from Honduras posed a great threat and that his opponent, Democratic Abigail Spanberger had not commented on it. The same spot falsely claimed that she supports “open borders” and “defended the violent gang MS-13.” He soon became the first GOP nominee to lose the district in 50 years.Islamophobic attacks against Kyrsten Sinema (AZ Senate)
Despite running in 2012 on a promise to eschew name-calling, Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) ran a vicious campaign against fellow Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) for the Senate seat Jeff Flake left open. In addition to slamming her opponent for protesting war “in a pink tutu,” McSally accused her in a debate of outright “treason” based on an offhand comment she made in 2003 acknowledging that people are free to choose to join the Taliban overseas. McSally’s career has been rife with anti-Muslim statements and actions. On Monday, she conceded, and Sinema will become the state’s first Democratic senator in 25 years.Xenophobic and neo-Confederate attacks on Tim Kaine (VA Senate)
Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart was the Republican nominee to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) — even after losing his neo-Confederate-themed gubernatorial campaign in 2017. This time around, he doubled down on fringe attacks: Brat called a Muslim-American candidate in Michigan an “ISIS commie,” falsely blamed the left for white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, and ran ads falsely warning that Tim Kaine favors “open borders” and the abolition of ICE, while promising to work with Trump to “stop the illegal alien invasion.” Accusing Kaine of being part of the Antifa movement, Stewart warned “vote red or America will be dead.” Virginia shrugged that off, giving Kaine a hefty 15-point win.Anti-LGBTQ attacks against Jared Polis (CO Governor)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who is openly gay, became the nation’s first out LGBTQ man elected governor. He did so despite attack ads by Focus on the Family’s Family Policy Alliance (FOF) attacking him for supporting non-discrimination laws. The group attempted to tie him to a state law that may force Jack Phillips, an anti-LGBTQ baker in the state, to provide public accommodations to all people.Xenophobic attacks on Laura Kelly (KS Governor)
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) has staked his career on voter suppression and xenophobia. After defeating Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary, he doubled down on anti-immigrant fear mongering and falsely attacked his Democratic opponent Laura Kelly as an “open-borders extremist.” The national party joined in, saying Kelly supported “taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants.” The attacks turned off several prominent Kansas Republicans, who crossed party lines to endorse Kelly. Despite the state’s heavily red tilt, she won by more than 4 points.Anti-Semitic ads around the country
Despite indications that Trump-backed conspiracy theories helped spur both the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting and the pipe bomb assassination attempts on presidential critics, Republican candidates around the country used an array of anti-Semitic attacks to suggest House Democrats were in the pocket of Jewish donors like George Soros. Ed Charamut, a Republican Connecticut legislative candidate, sent out a mailer depicting his Jewish Democratic opponent as a crazed person clutching wads of money. The National Republican Congressional Committee came under fire for similar caricatures and anti-Soros attacks. Charamut lost that race, the national Republicans lost their House majority, and anti-Semitism mostly proved to be a political loser.
Other Republican candidates who made bigoted and xenophobic statements also may have paid a price. Former California Congressman Frank Riggs (R) lost his race for Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction after using an offensive term to describe Asian-Americans — ironically, he was trying to make the claim that police racism does not exist. Former television anchor Maria Elvira Salazar (R) lost her race for an open House seat in Florida after she called for a review of birthright citizenship.
Perhaps most telling, despite the round-the-clock obsession by the Trump administration, its favored candidates, and Fox News with the southern border, voters who would be most immediately affected by “The Wall” largely voted against it as a concept. Democrats swept nearly all of the House districts along the southern border, and border states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas all saw major swings away from the GOP. Perhaps in 2020, GOP candidates might think twice before trying to emulate Trump.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) should be expelled from Congress.
The noted white supremacist, who also happens to be a Republican congressman, makes no effort to hide his racism.
In addition to his very long history of offensive conduct, King follows Twitter accounts “belonging to unabashed white supremacists, including Blair Cottrell, a violent Australian activist who’s called for hanging a picture of Adolf Hitler in every classroom; Stefan Molyneux, a Canadian alt-right vlogger who thinks whites are more intelligent than blacks; and an anonymous Twitter user (with only 334 followers) using the handle @DiezNewAge, who regularly tweets out anti-Semitic and anti-black messages,” according to HuffPost.
With President Donald Trump sitting in the White House, King’s re-election to a ninth term in Congress last week was further proof that most Republicans don’t draw the line at racism, which has become a feature of the party rather than a bug.
Democrats, with their new House majority, could remove arguably the most vile American politician while giving the GOP an opportunity to save some dignity by starting proceedings to expel King from Congress.
Will last week’s “pure repudiation” of Trump and Republicans at the polls finally force conservatives to face the ugly reality within their party?
Kicking King out of Congress would be a small, but meaningful, step.How to expel a lawmaker from Congress Steve King displays a Confederate flag at his desk in an interview with KCAU that aired on July 8, 2016. (Screengrab/SteveKingIA/YouTube)
Throughout U.S. history, 20 members of Congress have been ousted from their positions. Expulsion from the Senate has historically been more common, as only five of the 20 were booted from the House.
The overwhelming majority of expulsions were of treasonous lawmakers who supported the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War in the 1860s — but there is also some more recent precedent.
Expulsion from the House necessitates the support of two-thirds of representatives. Though ballots are still being counted in around 10 races from last week’s midterm elections, the new Democratic House majority is expected to number around 240. Reaching the 290 votes for King’s dismissal would require roughly a quarter of King’s Republican colleagues to back his ouster.
That might seem unlikely since the white supremacist still enjoys the support of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — but there are signs that tolerance for King is waning in some sectors of the party. National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) recently denounced King, saying, “We must stand up against white supremacy.”
Congress’ code of official conduct states that “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” There’s a compelling argument to be made that King’s blatant white supremacy does not “reflect creditably on the House.”
Of course, King hasn’t been charged with a crime, which conservatives will undoubtedly point out if any move is made to boot the Iowa congressman. But if there is an honest desire to tone down political rhetoric, serious discipline of King would send a clear message that white supremacists won’t be accepted in Congress.
Whether the required two-thirds of the House of Representatives has the political will to kick their racist colleague out of Washington, D.C. remains to be seen.Steve King’s disqualifying history of racism Steve King with President George W. Bush and Chuck Grassley at a rally in Le Mars, Iowa on November 3, 2006. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Though King has gained national notoriety for being a white supremacist in recent years, his history of racism extends well beyond his time in Congress.
In his 1996 campaign for a state senate seat, the Republican candidate’s signature issue was making English the “official language” of Iowa — a racist tactic to discriminate against non-native speakers. King cruised to victories in the GOP primary and general election. Legislation making English the official language of Iowa was later signed into law by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) in 2002.
The Republican was in the Hawkeye State senate for six years until he ran for an open U.S. House seat in the 5th congressional district. King was sent to Congress by Iowa voters for the first time with a 24-point win over Democrat Paul Shomshor in November 2002.
Although the newly-elected Iowa congressman stayed relatively quiet for his first couple of years in D.C., he started to show his true colors in 2004.
After the torture of detainees by U.S. military members at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was revealed — an incident that was later cited as a major recruitment tool by numerous extremist groups — the Republican congressman insisted the internationally-condemned incident was just “hazing.”
King was re-elected by an even wider margin in November 2004, defeating Democrat Joyce Schulte by 27 points.
2006 was when King’s white supremacy really started to show. Nearly a decade before Trump was talking about building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Republican congressman was displaying his proposal for a border wall with an electric current “that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it” on the House floor.
King also advocated for the elimination of bilingual ballots during the summer of 2006, “arguing that naturalized citizens should have had to prove English proficiency as part of their citizenship test.” The Republican congressman later defended President George W. Bush’s Iraq War by falsely claiming that his wife was “at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq.”
Amid heavy Republican losses that resulted in Democrats capturing the House and Senate, King was re-elected to a third term in Congress in November 2006, defeating Democrat Joyce Shulte by 23 points.
The Iowa congressman made headlines in 2007 for using the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to fearmonger about immigrants. During a speech in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and the still-rebuilding New York City skyline, King cited 9/11 to warn that “criminal aliens are coming to the U.S. in record numbers,” even though all 19 of the September 11th hijackers entered the country legally. Then King opposed providing a path to legal citizenship for undocumented relatives of 9/11 victims because “he lacked information about the immigrants and did not want to give legal status to terrorists or criminals.”
Despite a nationwide Republican wipeout during the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, which included the Democrat taking Iowa by nearly 10 points over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), King secured a fourth congressional term by winning each county in his district for the first time in a 22-point win over challenger Rob Hubler (D).
King, clearly agitated by the first Black president in U.S. history, was the only vote against a 2009 resolution to recognize slave labor’s contribution to the construction of the U.S. Capitol because he felt the bill didn’t have a “balanced depiction of history.” He also referred to the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses as “separatist groups” in a speech on the House floor.
Later that year, King defended the Confederate flag, described immigration as a “slow-motion Holocaust,” claimed voting against disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina was his proudest moment in Congress, and predicted a state supreme court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage would make Iowa “the gay marriage Mecca.”
After declaring his Democratic challenger wasn’t worthy of debating him, King cruised to re-election in November 2010, defeating Matt Campbell by over 33 points.
Though Obamacare was the primary focus of his 2011, King still made time for white supremacy. The GOP congressman claimed he would not change slavery or anything else about U.S. history, complained that white men were being discriminated against and questioned whether racial profiling should be illegal, interrogated a U.S. veteran about his immigration status, threatened to hold anti-immigrant hearings just to “publicly humiliate” Obama’s administration, and urged the House to investigate whether “drunken ‘Uncle Omar'” — a reference to the then-president’s uncle Onyango Obama who was charged with drunken driving — received special treatment during deportation hearings.
In 2012, King took his English-only push national, as he introduced the English Language Unity Act, a bill that would have made English the “official language” of the U.S. It failed, but the Iowa Republican advocated for it on a panel at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference that featured three other white nationalists, including Peter Brimelow, who founded the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate website VDARE. King reportedly told Brimelow, “I’ve read all your books!”
The Republican congressman also embraced the baseless birther conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya, and falsely claimed that Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was “deeply entrenched” in a Muslim group with ties to terrorism.
In 2012, King compared immigrants to dogs and claimed it was a compliment, defended Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s abuse of detainees, criticized multicultural groups as “people that feel sorry for themselves,” and told victims of discrimination to stop making excuses and “take individual responsibility.”
King faced the first real re-election challenge of his career in 2012 due to redistricting that eliminated one of the Hawkeye State’s congressional seats. He eventually secured a sixth term in Congress with an eight-point win over Christie Vilsack, the wife of the former Iowa governor and then-Agriculture Secretary.
Entering his second decade in Congress — and emboldened by his win over the wife of an Obama cabinet member as the president carried Iowa by nearly six points in the presidential election — King ratcheted up his white supremacy in 2013. The Republican congressman criticized DREAMers by claiming he had personally caught undocumented immigrants with “calves the size of cantaloupes” who were smuggling drugs.
After he was denounced by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and former vice presidential nominee and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for his racist remarks, King compared himself to Jesus and insisted that many Republicans actually agreed with him in private.
Elsewhere in 2013, King used the Boston Marathon bombing to fearmonger about immigrants, said Latinx immigrants were from a “violent civilization” and would bring “more violence” to the U.S., compared immigrants to bank robbers, tried to outlaw Spanish and other non-English languages from being used in federal documents, again insisted that his comparison of immigrants to dogs was a compliment, falsely claimed undocumented immigrants had killed more people than the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and blamed Obama for George Zimmerman having to stand trial in Florida over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
In 2014, there was some speculation that King could challenge Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who eventually decided to retire, for a Senate seat — but King instead opted to focus on more anti-immigrant fear-mongering. The Iowa Republican told a DACA recipient “I’m really sorry that you come from a lawless country” and “please do not erode the rule of law in America,” said undocumented immigrants who wanted to join the U.S. military were “defrauding” the government, advocated for federal surveillance of mosques, and told another DREAMer they were “very good at English” in a cringeworthy exchange.
King was a shoo-in to secure a seventh term in Congress in 2014. In October of that year, the bromance between Trump and the Iowa Republican started to blossom, as the future president joined him at a fundraiser in West Des Moines. The GOP congressman introduced the businessman who was still several months away from declaring his presidential candidacy by claiming everything Trump had touched “turned into something good for America.”
King defeated his Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer by over 23 points in November 2014.
In 2015, the Iowa Republican was rated as the least effective member of Congress due to his history of “sponsoring (his) own legislation and not getting it passed through committee.” When he wasn’t busy claiming same-sex marriage made it legal to marry lawnmowers or ranting about Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, King was asking Islamophobic questions at a Congressional hearing about immigrants that were deemed too offensive to answer.
Later that month, King claimed Muslims need to “reject Sharia Law” before they can be accepted into American society. The Republican congressman returned to MSNBC the following month to amplify an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that he got from Infowars.
It was also revealed in 2015 that a white supremacist leader who reportedly inspired the massacre of nine people at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina had made donations to King’s campaign.
Many Americans first became aware of the Republican white supremacist in Congress during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was a banner year for King’s bigotry, as he supported a GOP candidate who shared many of his racist views en route to Trump capturing the presidency despite receiving nearly three million fewer votes than his opponent.
In a July 2016 appearance on MSNBC, King advocated for white supremacy by claiming white people had contributed more to civilization than “any other subgroup of people.
The Iowa Republican also opposed a movement to replace noted racist and former President Andrew Jackson with Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, claiming the “racist” and “sexist” proposal was “liberal activism on the part of the president that’s trying to identify people by categories, and he’s divided us on the lines of groups.” The move to expel Jackson in favor of Tubman was backed by 56 percent of respondents in polling.
Later in 2016, King was shown displaying a Confederate flag at his desk during a television interview. Though the Confederate flag is obviously a symbol of white supremacy, the Republican congressman’s decision was made even more curious by the fact that Iowa was not part of the Confederacy.
As the race between Trump and Clinton dominated news coverage during that summer and fall, King added to his long history of bigotry by claiming NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protests of police brutality were inspired by his “Islamic girlfriend” and it was “activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.” The GOP congressman also urged political candidates to support “the natural family,” which he defined as “a man and woman joined together hopefully in holy matrimony blessed by God with children.”
As the world burned in November 2016, King easily secured an eighth congressional term, defeating Democratic challenger Kim Weaver by 23 points.
The Iowa white supremacist ramped up his white supremacy on Twitter as the Trump era began in 2017. In a racist March tweet that was praised by fellow white supremacists like former KKK leader David Duke, King stated, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
The Iowa Republican then tripled-down, telling Breitbart that “Western civilization is a superior civilization, it is the first world.” Western civilization is a phrase used by white nationalists to advocate for white supremacy in a more “politically correct” way.
Following the murder of Heather Heyer by a white nationalist at a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, King defended the Confederate flag and Trump’s infamous remarks about people on “both sides” being to blame for the disturbing weekend that resulted in the convictions of numerous white supremacists.
The Iowa Republican celebrated Trump’s decision to end DACA, claiming it provided DREAMers with a valuable “opportunity to live in the shadows.” King also suggested children who were brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrants should turn in their parents, promoted Turkey’s far-right authoritarian leader while using a phrase that is popular among white nationalists, and endorsed a far-right French politician.
Kim Weaver, who lost to King in 2016, announced midway through 2017 that she would not be challenging him again in the next midterm elections due to death threats.
Thus far in 2018, the Republican white supremacist has unapologetically retweeted a neo-Nazi and then claimed Ryan’s vague condemnation wasn’t directed at him since he wasn’t mentioned by name, retweeted a Holocaust-denying white supremacist while comparing the left to Nazis, endorsed a far-right Canadian mayoral candidate who promoted a book calling for the “elimination” of Jewish people, retweeted an image of detained Latinx migrants to claim they were “prime MS-13 gang material,” baselessly claimed Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (D-TX) “took Spanish lessons to qualify as retroactive Hispanics,” mocked 18-year-old mass shooting survivor Emma González over her Cuban heritage, promoted false crime statistics to smear immigrants, claimed he didn’t want Muslim immigrants working in his district, warned of a potential Civil War, and referred to immigrants as “dirt.”
In October, King was asked about a far-right Austrian political party with ties to literal Nazis that he has visited numerous times in recent years, including during a recent trip to Europe that was funded by a Holocaust memorial group. “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” admitted King of the far-right party whose leader “was active in neo-Nazi circles.”
A week before the midterms, the GOP congressman had a temper tantrum after being asked about his history of racist rhetoric following the massacre of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The alleged suspect is an anti-Semite who, like the Iowa Republican, promoted baseless anti-immigrant conspiracy theories.
Though King’s seat in Iowa’s 4th district was viewed as safe despite the expected “blue wave” of opposition to Trump’s unpopular policies, his Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten closed in fast in polling after the Republican’s white supremacy made national headlines.
Scholten ultimately gave King the toughest re-election challenge of his career, coming within around three points of unseating the white supremacist, but the Iowa Republican will begin his ninth term in Congress come January.Expelling Steve King is a smart political move Steve King speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on January 9, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Expelling King from Congress would create a special election to fill his seat in Iowa’s 4th district. Though the white supremacist was narrowly re-elected last week, his district is rated as reliably conservative and any Republican would be a heavy favorite over a Democrat, even in this political climate.
At a time when the GOP is roundly criticized for tolerating or embracing racism — including fear-mongering about a migrant caravan as a closing argument before the midterms, unconstitutionally trying to repeal birthright citizenship, promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that reportedly inspired violence, and nominating an openly racist Senate candidate in Virginia, among a very long list — expelling King would be the highest-profile example of conservatives taking a stand against the insidious pattern within their party.
Though the move would obviously be long overdue, Republicans around the country could point to the Iowa congressman’s ouster to defend their party against accusations of racism. It’s a smart political move in addition to generally being the right thing to do.
King is losing corporate sponsors and the patience of long-time supporters, like Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA), who said, “I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that” on Tuesday.
There is nothing to lose by expelling King from Congress. Just the support of his fellow white supremacists.
Democratic congressional candidate Ben McAdams has held on to a slim lead in Utah’s 4th congressional district after another batch of votes were counted in Salt Lake County Tuesday night.
#UT04 update: Salt Lake County gives Ben McAdams (D) 5,059 new votes, Rep. Mia Love (R) 4,722. McAdams's overall lead stands at 1,357, but the latest batches have skewed slightly more R than the initial, making this a nail biter.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 13, 2018
McAdams, the current mayor of Salt Lake County, received 5,059 new votes from the group counted Tuesday, while incumbent Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) received 4,722, giving McAdams a 1,357 vote lead.
McAdams now leads with 50.3 percent of the vote, compared with 49.7 percent for Love. According to Utah law, a candidate can request a recount if the race is within .25 percent.
Both candidates expressed optimism in the wake of the newly tallied votes that cut into McAdams’ small lead.
“The numbers are moving in the right direction,” a spokesperson for Love told The Salt Lake Tribune, “and we are diligently watching for additional results.”
“The mayor’s lead continues to hold, and we remain optimistic about the final tally,” a spokesperson for McAdams told the Tribune. “We will continue watching results as they come in.”
McAdams was one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)’s “Red to Blue” candidates and, in terms of the Democrats’ much-touted “blue wave,” he has long been considered one of the party’s bellwether candidates — especially since Love beat her Democratic opponent by 12 points two years ago.
This time out, Love has found herself in a race that is expected to drag out for several more days. Scott Hogensen, the Chief Deputy Clerk/Auditor of Utah County told local reporters on Tuesday that more vote totals are not expected to be released until week’s end.
In the week since the election, there has been continued good news for Democrats across the country. On Monday night, Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) conceded the Arizona Senate race to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), officially making Sinema the country’s first openly bisexual senator — as well as Arizona’s first woman senator and its first Democratic senator in more than two decades.
Additionally, after Democratic darling and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum conceded on election night, he announced Saturday that he was recanting his concession and instead, he said, replacing it with “an unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote.”
I am replacing my earlier concession with an unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote.
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) November 10, 2018
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also moved to sue the state of Florida Tuesday to extend the statewide recount of his re-election race against Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
A number of other Democratic candidates in tipping point districts are in similar positions as McAdams, with the potential to add to Democrats’ midterm successes, including Josh Harder in California, Andy Kim in New Jersey, and Anthony Brindisi in New York.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) rebuked Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the congressman from the state’s fourth district and an open white supremacist who served as her campaign co-chairman and with whom Reynolds held her final campaign rally just over a week ago.
Asked by a local reporter if she had talked to King about a “series of controversies” he has been facing recently — a nice euphemism for “consistently being an avowed racist” — Reynolds said the two haven’t had time to talk because she’s been busy following the election.
She added, however, “I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that.”
The Des Moines Register characterized the remark Tuesday as Reynolds “signaling… she’s lost her patience.”
In recent weeks, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) disavowed King, calling his “recent comments, actions, and retweets” inappropriate.
“We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn his behavior,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) tweeted.
Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.
— Steve Stivers (@RepSteveStivers) October 30, 2018
“As much as the GOP needs King to hold that seat, his dalliances with racists and anti-Semites are too high a price to pay for it,” Jonathan S. Tobin wrote in The National Review.
Dalliances, as anyone who’s spent five minutes on King’s Twitter can tell you, is an understatement.
As ThinkProgress’ Luke Barnes detailed last month, “He’s retweeted British neo-Nazi Mark Collett and steadfastly refused to apologize for it, been endorsed by the Daily Stormer, made frequent trips to visit the far-right government of Austria, and, perhaps most infamously, quipped that ‘we can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.'”
He also recently endorsed a far-right candidate running for mayor of Toronto, shouted down a reporter who asked him about the recent anti-Semitic shooter in Pittsburgh, and then lied about calling immigrants “dirt” before he was disproved when a conservative magazine published audio in which King did, in fact, call immigrants “dirt.”
Nevertheless, Reynolds patiently kept him on as her campaign co-chairman.
“I can’t be held responsible for everyone’s comments. I can be held responsible for myself,” she told a reporter in late October who asked about whether King would be removed from the campaign.
Here is a clip of my asking @KimReynoldsIA if she'll remove @SteveKingIA as campaign co-chair, in wake of calls for her to do so. "I can't be held responsible for everyone's comments. I can be held responsible for myself," she told me. WACTH #iagov #iapolitics pic.twitter.com/4RJS8rDdGV
— Caroline Cummings (@CaroRCummings) October 31, 2018
Now that she’s back in office for a four-year term — and finding King to be under more fire for his views than ever before — the tables have turned, and Reynolds is beginning to find that the convenience of enabling King to be rougher sledding than it had been previously.
In a statement to the Des Moines Register, a spokesperson for King said, “Congressman King loves Gov. Reynolds, is thankful to her for signing his heartbeat bill into law, and notes that they are birds of a feather because they won by similar margins.”
A week after the midterm election left Georgia’s gubernatorial race too close to call, Democrat Stacey Abrams is refusing to concede and the campaign is winning court orders, allowing the counting of votes to continue.
Abrams hopes that Republican candidate Brian Kemp’s vote total will drop below 50 percent, forcing a runoff in the race for Georgia’s governor’s mansion.
In a ruling late Monday, a federal judge in Atlanta ordered Georgia to ensure that provisional ballots aren’t unlawfully rejected and to wait until Friday to certify the election results. The state had planned on certifying results on Wednesday, one day after the counties were to have submitted their certified vote totals.
Stacey Abrams vows to fight on as tens of thousands of ballots are still uncounted in Georgia
In her order, Judge Amy Totenberg also ordered the secretary of state’s office to set up a hotline and website so voters can check whether their provisional ballots have been counted.
She also ordered the secretary of state’s office to review counties where more than 100 provisional ballots were cast to determine if there were issues.
On Tuesday, voting advocates secured another win when a court issued a temporary restraining order requiring Gwinnett County to accept absentee ballots from voters who did not provide their birth date. The Gwinnett County Board of Elections had rejected at least 265 ballots because of that error, according to the lawsuit.
In a post on Medium, Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo explained how the campaign believes it has found 30,823 ballots that the secretary of state’s office has not yet counted.Image via Stacey Abrams campaign
“That’s not even including the ballots submitted by members of the military or Georgia voters overseas, which could be as high as 2,684 (which is the number of requested ballots),” she wrote. “Combined, they represent 33,507 ballots entirely ignored by the Secretary of State office.”
On Election Day, ThinkProgress reported that polling places in Gwinnett County, a majority-minority Democratic stronghold outside Atlanta, had over four hour lines to cast a ballot.
ThinkProgress also observed dozens of African American students in Atlanta who were forced to cast provisional ballots, many without understanding why their ballots may not be counted.