Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022

Kansas is an unlikely place for a triumph of abortion rights.

Starting in the 1990s, abortion providers in the state were repeated targets of violence, and in 2009, physician George Tiller was assassinated in Wichita. The state is a reliable GOP vote in presidential elections, and mostly sends Republicans to represent it in the Senate and House of Representatives – all of whom currently oppose abortion.

But as last night’s vote to keep abortion protections in the constitutions shows, its residents don’t necessarily share their views. Around 59 percent of voters rejected a measure to change the constitution to allow the procedure to be cracked down on – about matching the 58 percent of Americans Gallup found did not want Roe v. Wade overturned.

Whether red or blue, many states appear to share this dynamic. The Public Religion Research Institute says only in 10 states do majorities of voters want to make abortion illegal in all or most cases. Nationally, only 40 percent of people would support doing that.

Key events

Closing summary

Washington spent today digesting the results of primary elections across the country, in which Kansas voted to protect abortion rights while Trump-aligned candidates triumphed in Arizona and elsewhere.

Here’s a recap of what happened today:

Indiana congresswoman killed in car accident

Jackie Walorski, a Republican House representative from Indiana, was among four people killed in a car accident while traveling in the state, WSBT reports:

A northbound passenger car traveled left of center and collided head on with a southbound vehicle.

Walorski, Zachary Potts with the St. Joseph County Republican Party, and Walorski’s comm. director Emma Thompson all passed away.

— Erica Finke WSBT (@EricaFinkeTV) August 3, 2022

The northbound vehicle driver, Edith Schmucker, died as well.

The investigation is continuing at this time.#RIP to everyone involved in this horrifying crash.

— Erica Finke WSBT (@EricaFinkeTV) August 3, 2022

A federal grand jury investigating the January 6 attack has subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin, according to media reports.

Both men were present in the White House during the time of the insurrection, and Cipollone has provided testimony to the House committee investigating the attack, which was a major part of its most recent hearing and showed the lawyer trying to get Donald Trump to call off his supporters as they assaulted the Capitol.

CNN first reported Philbin’s subpoena today, while ABC News broke the story of Cipollone’s subpoena yesterday.

The January 6 committee plans to subpoena phone data from Alex Jones that was accidentally revealed in a defamation case against him, Rolling Stone reports.

Citing two sources, the magazine said investigators for the House committee investigating the attack were planning to take advantage of the the surprise development today in Jones’ trial, where it was revealed his lawyer had accidentally shared a copy of Jones’ phone data with attorneys for the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook elementary school, who are suing Jones.

According to Rolling Stone, “It’s unclear what, specifically, the committee will be looking for in Jones’ communications but attorneys for the Sandy Hook plaintiffs have accused the InfoWars host of intentionally withholding relevant communications about the Sandy Hook shooting and lying about having conducted a search for them.”

Saying that Republicans “don’t have a clue about the power of American women”, Joe Biden cheered Kansas voters’ rejection of a ballot initiative that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion.

He made the comments while appearing virtually at a meeting where he signed an executive order that could allow Medicaid, the government health plan for poor and disabled Americans, to cover the travel costs of people who must cross state lines to seek an abortion.

“[Republicans] don’t have a clue about the power of American women. Last night in Kansas they found out.”

— President Biden celebrates Kansas’ defeat of a ballot initiative that would have repealed the state’s right to abortion

— The Recount (@therecount) August 3, 2022

As the January 6 committee has explored the events surrounding the attack on the Capitol, one name has come up repeatedly: Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor and lawyer for Donald Trump has been involved in that White House’s many scandals, but the New York Times reports today that one inquiry appears to be reaching a conclusion.

Federal investigators are unlikely to file charges against Giuliani after looking into whether he illegally lobbied for officials from Ukraine who had offered damaging information about Joe Biden. Here’s more from the Times’ report:

While prosecutors had enough evidence last year to persuade a judge to order the seizure of Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices, they did not uncover a smoking gun in the records, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a federal investigation.

The prosecutors have not closed the investigation, and if new evidence were to emerge, they could still pursue Mr. Giuliani. But in a telling sign that the inquiry is close to wrapping up without an indictment, investigators recently returned the electronic devices to Mr. Giuliani, the people said. Mr. Giuliani also met with prosecutors and agents in February and answered their questions, a signal that his lawyers were confident he would not be charged.

This is unlikely to be the last time Giuliani hears from prosecutors, both at the federal or state level. In addition to the January 6 inquiry, he has been subpoenaed to appear before a special grand jury in Georgia that is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in that state.

There was an unusual and dramatic turn in the defamation trial of Alex Jones this afternoon, when it was revealed that his attorney accidentally sent a copy of the data from Jones’ phone to a lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents who are suing him.

The revelations seem to open up the possibility that Jones could have perjured himself during his testimony. Here’s the account of what happened from Ben Collins of NBC News:

Wow. Sandy Hook parents’ lawyer is revealing that Alex Jones’ lawyers sent him the contents of Jones’ phone BY MISTAKE.

“12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me a digital copy of every text” Jones has sent for years.

“You know what perjury is?” the lawyer asks.

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 3, 2022

Sandy Hook parents’ lawyer is now asking Jones about the times he has emailed about Sandy Hook over the last several years, despite testifying under oath he couldn’t find any emails about Sandy Hook. There are apparently a lot of them. One is on a screen right now.

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 3, 2022

Even Jones is stunned by the fact Sandy Hook parents seem to have his emails. Jones just called it their lawyers’ “Perry Mason moment.” It’s shocking.

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 3, 2022

Judge instructing the jury on the entire contents of Alex Jones’ phone, which was accidentally handed over from Jones’ lawyers to the Sandy Hook parents’ lawyers:

“What we do know is that it was not properly turned over when it should have been.”

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 3, 2022

These texts and emails are FINALLY revealing financials behind Infowars.

Some days in 2018, InfoWars was making $800,000 a day.

“Well after your deplatforming, your numbers keep getting better,” Sandy Hook parents’ lawyer says.

If they keep that up, that’s ~$300 mill. a year.

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 3, 2022

Per the Associated Press, closing arguments in the case are expected to begin today.

The defamation trial of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones appears to be nearing a conclusion in Texas. The Associated Press reports Jones acknowledged in court that the Sandy Hook school shooting happened, after years in which he insisted it was a hoax:

The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said on Wednesday he now understands it was irresponsible to declare the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax, and now believes it was “100% real”.

He was speaking in his own defamation trial, a day after the parents of a six-year-old boy killed in the 2012 attack testified about suffering, death threats and harassment they have endured because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms.

“It was … especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said, at the trial that will determine how much he owes for defaming the parents of Jesse Lewis, one of 20 children and six adults killed at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, has said Finland and Sweden’s applications for membership of Nato – motivated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – are “a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support”.

McConnell made the remarks on the Senate floor today, before a vote scheduled later. The short version of what he said, provided by his office, is as follows:

Today, the Senate will approve ratification protocols to welcome Finland and Sweden as the two newest members of Nato … There is just no question that admitting these robust democratic countries with modern economies and capable, interoperable militaries will only strengthen the most successful military alliance in human history … This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support.

Approval is expected, though one prominent (and notably sprightly) Republican has said he will vote no.

In an op ed last month, Josh Hawley of Missouri said: “Finland and Sweden want to join the Atlantic Alliance to head off further Russian aggression in Europe. That is entirely understandable given their location and security needs.

“But America’s greatest foreign adversary doesn’t loom over Europe. It looms in Asia. I am talking of course about the People’s Republic of China. And when it comes to Chinese imperialism, the American people should know the truth: the United States is not ready to resist it. Expanding American security commitments in Europe now would only make that problem worse – and America, less safe.”

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

Joe Manchin, the man in the middle of most things in Washington these days, spoke to the Senate rules committee this morning about reforming the Electoral Count Act, the creaky old mechanism which just about stood up to Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in 2020.

Joe Manchin.
Joe Manchin. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Reform to the act has emerged as a rare subject of bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill – and Manchin, being the only Democrat in statewide office in otherwise deep Republican red West Virginia, is generally a fan of bipartisan things.

He said: “As we saw on 6 January 2021, a lot of the ‘fixes’ established by the original Electoral Count Act are not merely outdated but actually serve as the very mechanisms that bad actors have zeroed in on as a way to potentially invalidate presidential election results.

“As I am sure you will hear from the panel of distinguished experts who will testify before you today – the time to reform the ECA is long overdue. The time for Congress to act is now.

“To that end, I am proud of the bipartisan bill introduced by [the Republican] Senator [Susan] Collins [of Maine], myself, and my colleagues last month: The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act.”

Manchin said the new act would “unambiguously clarifie that the vice-president is prohibited from interfering with the electoral votes; raise the objection [to electoral results] threshold from a single representative and a single senator to 20% of the members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate; and set a hard deadline for state governors to certify … electoral results – and if they fail to do so or submit a slate that does not match with the electoral results from the state, it creates an expedited judicial process to resolve”.

Manchin and Sinema act out of ego, not principle

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

This week, the spotlight once again will be on Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (dubbed “Manchinema” by the Washington press corps when the two blocked much of Joe Biden’s agenda).

Which is exactly where both of these politicians want it.

It’s the Democrats’ last chance for a large package – Manchin agreed last week to $790bn – on the climate and healthcare, financed by a tax increase on the rich and big corporations. But will Sinema go along?

It’s been joked that the word “politics” is derived from the Latin “poli”, meaning “many”, and “ticks”, meaning small blood-sucking insects. I don’t hold such a cynical view. But I do know from 50 years’ experience in and around Washington that most of the people who serve in our nation’s capital have very, very large – shall we say? – egos.

Full column:

The day so far

Could things be looking up for Democrats? Between the defeat of an anti-abortion ballot measure in Kansas and some positive polling data, president Joe Biden’s party has seen signs pulling out of the slump it fell into recently – but there’s still months to go before the November midterms.

Here’s a look back at what has happened so far today:

The supreme court has announced a new argument calendar for its cases in the fall, where the conservative majority could again move to upend laws across the United States.

Of note is the 31 October argument of two cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in which the court could bar the usage of race as a factor in college admissions.

Biden remains positive for Covid-19 but is otherwise feeling well, the White House doctor said in an update on the president’s health.

“The President continues to feel well,” Kevin O’Connor wrote, noting Biden “remains fever-free and in good spirits” and had completed “a light workout” today.

Biden contracted the virus last month and appeared to have recovered, testing negative last week. But over the weekend, he tested positive again.

New York Democratic House representative Carolyn Maloney is doing a bit of clean-up this morning after suggesting in a debate last night that president Biden won’t run for re-election.

“I don’t believe he’s running for reelection,” Maloney said during the debate, according to CNN. The lawmaker appeared to be saying the quiet part out loud when it comes to Biden’s viability as a candidate in 2024, given his age (he’ll be 81 when the election is held) and dismal approval ratings.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Maloney tried to clear the matter up:

I will absolutely support President Biden, if he decides to run for re-election.

Biden’s leadership securing historic investments for healthcare, climate & economic justice prove once again why he is the strong and effective leader we need right now. 🧵

— Carolyn B. Maloney (@CarolynBMaloney) August 3, 2022

I urge all Democrats to stay united & focused on working towards winning the midterms.

Right now, I am concentrating on the upcoming Democratic primary on August 23rd & the issues that matter to the voters of #NY12. Request your absentee ballot by Monday, August 8th

— Carolyn B. Maloney (@CarolynBMaloney) August 3, 2022

Maloney represents a district that encompasses part of New York City, but after redistricting, she’s vying to keep her seat against congressman Jerry Nadler, a fellow Democrat.

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