All posts by Rick Hasen

“As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase”

NY Times:

At the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

At the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

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“Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks”

Must-read WaPo:

Academics, universities and government agencies are overhauling or ending research programs designed to counter the spread of online misinformation amid a legal campaign from conservative politicians and activists who accuse them of colluding with tech companies to censor right-wing views.

The escalating campaign — led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Republicans in Congress and state government — has cast a pall over programs that study not just political falsehoodsbut also the quality of medical information online.

Facing litigation,Stanford University officials are discussing how they can continue tracking election-related misinformation through the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), a prominent consortium that flagged social media conspiracies about voting in 2020 and 2022, several participants told The Washington Post. The coalition of disinformation researchers may shrink and also may stop communicating with X and Facebook about their findings…..

Led by the Stanford Internet Observatory and the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, the coalition of researchers was formed in the middle of the 2020 presidential campaign to alert tech companies in real time about viral election-related conspiracies on their platforms. The posts, for example, falsely claimed Dominion Voting Systems’ software switched votes in favor of President Biden, an allegation that also was at the center of a defamation case that Fox News settled for $787 million.

In March 2021, the group released a nearly 300-page report documenting how false election fraud claims rippled across the internet, coalescing into the #StopTheSteal movement that fomented the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol. In its final report, the coalition noted that Meta, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok and YouTube labeled, removed or suppressed just over a third of the posts the researchers flagged.

But by 2022, the partnership was engulfed in controversy. Right-wing media outlets, advocacy groups and influencers such as the Foundation for Freedom Online, Just the News and far-right provocateur Jack Posobiec argued that the Election Integrity Partnership was part of a coalition with government and industry working to censor Americans’ speech online. (Posobiec didn’t respond to a request for comment, but after this story was published online he posted the request on X with the comment: “Every one of these programs will be penniless and powerless by the time I am done.”)

Jordan has sent several legal demands to see the coalition’sinternal communications with the government and social media platforms and hauled them into Congress to testify about their work.

Louis-Charles, the Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, said in a statement that the universities involved with EIP “played a unique role in the censorship industrial complex given their extensive, direct contacts with federal government agencies.”

The probe prompted members of the Election Integrity Partnership to reevaluate their participation in the coalition altogether. Stanford Internet Observatory founder Alex Stamos, whose group helps lead the coalition, told Jordan’s staff earlier this year that he would have to talk with Stanford’s leadership about the university’s continued involvement, according to a partial transcript filed in court.

“Since this investigation has cost the university now approaching seven [figure]legal fees, it’s been pretty successful, I think, in discouraging us from making it worthwhile for us to do a study in 2024,” Stamos said.

Kate Starbird, co-founder of the University of Washington Center for an Informed Public, declined to elaborate on specific plans to monitor the upcoming presidential race but said her group aims to put together a “similar coalition … to rapidly address harmful false rumors about the 2024 election.”

She added, “It’s clear to me that researchers and their institutions won’t be deterred by conspiracy theorists and those seeking to smear and silence this line of research for entirely political reasons.”…

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“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Flirts With the Libertarian Party”


For months, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has said he plans to continue his long-shot challenge against President Biden in the Democratic primary rather than dropping out to launch a third-party bid.

But lately Mr. Kennedy’s message has seemed to shift, including publicly telling a voter who asked about his plans that he was keeping his “options open.”

If Mr. Kennedy does decide to leave the party of his famous father and uncles to run in the general election, one potential landing spot may be the Libertarian Party, which at the moment lacks a widely known candidate but has excelled at securing ballot access.

In July, Mr. Kennedy met privately with Angela McArdle, the chair of the Libertarian Party, at a conference they were both attending in Memphis — a meeting that has not previously been reported….

In a general election, Democrats worry that a third-party run by Mr. Kennedy could draw votes away from Mr. Biden and help elect former President Donald J. Trump. They have expressed similar concerns about No Labels, the bipartisan group trying to recruit a moderate candidate for a third-party run, and also about the progressive scholar Cornel West, who is already in the race to lead the Green Party’s ticket for 2024.

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“In North Carolina, Republicans Seek More Control Over Elections”


Shortly before Gov. Roy Cooper, a North Carolina Democrat, began his first term in 2017, his rivals in the Republican-controlled legislature voted to strip the position of key powers, including the governor’s longstanding authority to appoint majorities to the state election board and local election boards in all 100 counties. After the state Supreme Court ruled that move illegal, the lawmakers put the idea on the ballot, but the state’s voters shot that down, too.

Now, seven years after their first try, the legislators appear on the verge of getting what they have long sought.

On Wednesday, the State House of Representatives followed the State Senate in passing legislation that would put the legislature in charge of all election board appointments. It would also change the number of positions on each board to split seats equally between Republican and Democratic members, eliminating the extra seat — controlled by the governor — that had served as a tiebreaker in disputes….

Another court challenge is likely. But it probably will end up before a state Supreme Court controlled by Republicans who have established a pattern of reversing past Democratic rulings in politically sensitive cases.

Well beyond any policy differences, the Republicans’ move to shift power from Governor Cooper to themselves underscores the blood-feud intensity of the political divide in a state evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters but where Republicans increasingly have gained political control.

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“Mississippi high court blocks appointment of some judges in majority-Black capital city and county”


The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday struck down part of a state law that would have authorized some circuit court judges to be appointed rather than elected in the capital city of Jackson and the surrounding county, which are both majority-Black.

Critics said the law was an effort by the majority-white Legislature to stomp on voting rights and to treat Jackson and Hinds County residents unfairly in a state where most judges are elected.

In the ruling, justices affirmed a part of the law that creates a new court to hear misdemeanor cases in a part of Jackson that includes the state Capitol and other state government buildings.

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“Republicans Will Encourage Voting Before Election Day”

Walter Olson at Cato:

A more systematic benefit is that campaigns can save money and target their resources more effectively if supporters vote early. If a household is already recorded in the state database two weeks before Election Day as having voted, there’s no need to bombard it with last‐​minute mailings and phone calls.

There is also reason to believe that mail and drop box voting appeals to many constituencies among whom Republicans tend to do well, such as retirees and homemaking moms. In fact, until Trump chose to impose a different narrative, Republicans in many states were thought to be more skillful users of mail voting.

Partisan interest aside, there are two ways in which the interest of the nation as a whole is likely to be well served by the GOP’s return to course on this point. First, it abets distrust, polarization, and gamesmanship for one voting method to be seen as somehow “belonging to” one side. If early in‐​person voting is no longer perceived as a Democratic specialty, it will be easier for states to weigh impartially how much of it to schedule (from election administrators’ perspective, there are potential burdens in providing either too little or too much of it). Likewise for other methods.

The second ground for renewed optimism is that allowing voters to sort themselves more evenly between ballot channels will tend to dissipate the “red mirage” phenomenon in which one party jumps off to an early lead based on an early counting of votes that were cast its favored way, only to see that lead diminish and reverse as votes from the other party’s favored channels get counted.

It is hard to exaggerate how much damage the “red mirage” did in setting up the conditions for much of the public to be misled about the 2020 presidential election.

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“Judge overseeing case to remove Trump from ballot agrees to order banning threats and intimidation”


The Colorado judge overseeing the first significant lawsuit to bar former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential ballot on Friday issued a protective order prohibiting threats and intimidation in the case, saying the safety of those involved — including herself and her staff — was necessary as the groundbreaking litigation moves forward.

“I 100% understand everybody’s concerns for the parties, the lawyers, and frankly myself and my staff based on what we’ve seen in other cases,” District Judge Sarah B. Wallace said as she agreed to the protective order.

The order prohibits parties in the case from making threatening or intimidating statements. Scott Gessler, a former Colorado secretary of state representing Trump in the case, opposed it. He said a protective order was unnecessary because threats and intimidation already are prohibited by law.

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“Request for Gag Order on Trump Raises Free Speech Dilemma”

Charlie Savage for the NYT:

The request by prosecutors that a judge impose a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump in the federal election-subversion case presents a thorny conflict between the scope of his First Amendment rights and fears that he could — intentionally or not — spur his supporters to violence.

There is little precedent for how the judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, should think about how to weigh strong constitutional protections for political speech against ensuring the functioning of the judicial process and the safety of the people participating in it.

It is one more example of the challenges of seeking to hold to account a norm-shattering former president who is being prosecuted in two federal cases — and two state cases — as he makes another bid for the White House with a message that his opponents have weaponized the criminal justice system against him.

“Everything about these cases is making new law because there are so many gaps in the law,” said Paul F. Rothstein, a law professor at Georgetown University and a criminal procedure specialist. “The system is held together by people doing the right thing according to tradition, and Trump doesn’t — he jumps into every gap.”

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“Senator Robert Menendez Is Indicted in New York”


Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey has been charged in a federal corruption indictment, the authorities said on Friday.

The indictment against Mr. Menendez, a 69-year-old Democrat who leads the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, follows a lengthy investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and comes nearly six years after his trial on unrelated claims of corruption ended with a hung jury.

The indictment, unsealed in Manhattan federal court, also names the senator’s wife of three years, Nadine Menendez, 56, and a prominent New Jersey real estate developer, Fred Daibes, accusing them of participating in the corrupt scheme. Wael Hana, a longtime friend of Ms. Menendez’s who founded a halal meat certification business in New Jersey, was also charged, as was a fifth person, Jose Uribe, a New Jersey businessman.

It has been known for some time that Mr. Menendez was under federal scrutiny, and he has said he was willing to assist investigators and was confident the matter would be “successfully closed.”

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“Down-Ballot Republicans Who Endorse Trump’s Election-Fraud Lie Expected to Face ‘Considerable Voter Backlash,’ Poll Finds”

National Review:

Republican candidates in competitive House and Senate races who align themselves with former president Donald Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election could face “considerable voter backlash” on Election Day, according to a new poll from WPA Intelligence. 

Of respondents who said they are undecided on the generic congressional ballot, 51 percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate who believes the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Just 12 percent said they’d be more likely to support a candidate who holds such beliefs.

Fifty-percent of all voters said they’d be less likely to support a candidate who espouses Trump’s false 2020 claims, while 26 percent said they’d be more likely to support such a candidate.

Among independents, that number rises to 65 percent who say they’d be less likely and drops to 18 percent who would be more likely to support such a candidate.

And among voters who are undecided on a hypothetical 2024 matchup between Trump and President Biden, 64 percent said they’d be less likely to support such a candidate, while just 5 percent said they’d be more likely to.

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“Clarence Thomas Secretly Participated in Koch Network Donor Events”


On Jan. 25, 2018, dozens of private jets descended on Palm Springs International Airport. Some of the richest people in the country were arriving for the annual winter donor summit of the Koch network, the political organization founded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. A long weekend of strategizing, relaxation in the California sun and high-dollar fundraising lay ahead.

Just after 6 p.m., a Gulfstream G200 jet touched down on the tarmac. One of the Koch network’s most powerful allies was on board: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

During the summit, the justice went to a private dinner for the network’s donors. Thomas has attended Koch donor events at least twice over the years, according to interviews with three former network employees and one major donor. The justice was brought in to speak, staffers said, in the hopes that such access would encourage donors to continue giving.

That puts Thomas in the extraordinary position of having served as a fundraising draw for a network that has brought cases before the Supreme Court, including one of the most closely watched of the upcoming term.

Thomas never reported the 2018 flight to Palm Springs on his annual financial disclosure form, an apparent violation of federal law requiring justices to report most gifts. A Koch network spokesperson said the network did not pay for the private jet. Since Thomas didn’t disclose it, it’s not clear who did pay.

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“Constitution Day conversation with Jamie Raskin: Preserving democracy today and tomorrow”

Rick LaRue talks to Jamie Raskin at The Fulcrum:

What revisions to the Constitution rise to the top of your need-to-be-changed list?

The Equal Rights Amendment, obviously. I also believe that we must get rid of unaccountable dark money in our politics and reverse the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision. I have cosponsored legislation to establish the Democracy For All Amendment, which would cut off the pipeline between corporate and super-wealthy donor dollars and political power and governmental influence. It is time to formally elevate democracy over plutocracy in our Constitution, something hinted at in the 24th Amendment banning poll taxes in federal elections.

We also should build a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right of every citizen to vote. Right now, we do not have a universal, guaranteed right to vote—instead, we are working from a patchwork of ad hoc anti discrimination amendments to try and defend the foundation of our democracy.

[And] take the Second Amendment.… It does not give the people the insurrectionary right to overthrow the government if it turns tyrannical…. Far from making violent insurrection an individual or collective right, the entire architecture of our structural Constitution is designed to oppose and defeat violent insurrection….[continued].

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