George Santos is expelled from Congress

December 4, 2023

The House voted on  Friday, December 1, to expel Representative George Santos (R-New York) from Congress—an embarrassing end to his brief legislative career that was built on lies from the start, reports HuffPost.

The final vote was 311 to 114. You can read the expulsion resolution here.

Their action comes after a House Ethics Committee investigation found last month that Santos spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds on personal services and products—such as Botox treatments, Hermès designer products, and access to a website used primarily by sex workers.

The panel also alleged that Santos reported fake donations to his campaign in order to persuade donors to give him even more money―and then kept all of that money for himself.

The Republican chairman of the committee sponsored the resolution to throw Santos out of Congress right after the panel released its report.

There have only been 20 people expelled from Congress in its entire history; and most were in the Senate and kicked out in the 1860s for supporting the Confederacy. The last time a federal lawmaker was expelled was in 2002, when then-Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) was convicted of bribery and racketeering.

Santos is the sixth House member to be expelled, and the first Republican House member. His expulsion may be the least of his woes. He’s facing a 23-count federal indictment that alleges conspiracy, cheating to get unemployment benefits, credit card fraud and other crimes.

Santos has also been accused of lying about his résumé so many times that it’s hard to keep up. He’s misled people about his name, his Jewish heritage; being a descendent of Holocaust survivors from Ukraine; his mother being in the Twin Towers during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and his mother being the first female executive at a major financial institution. Immigration documents show that his mother worked as a housekeeper.

The New York Republican has consistently denied he’s done anything wrong. Last month, he dismissed the House Ethics Committee’s probe into his finances, calling it “a dirty biased act and one that tramples all over my rights.”

In the wake of that report, though, he did announce he wouldn’t run for reelection.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Trump targets wife of New York judge overseeing civil fraud trial

December 1, 2023

The wife of the New York judge overseeing Donald Trump’s ongoing civil fraud trial is the latest target of the former president’s rage online, reports The Hill.

Trump took aim at Judge Arthur Engoron’s spouse in a series of posts on Tuesday afternoon, November 28, purporting that an account on X— formerly Twitter—that made several anti-Trump posts belongs to her.

The posts by “Dawn Marie,” which were first unearthed by conservative activist Laura Loomer, say Trump is “headed to the big house,” referring to prison, and remark on his ongoing trial. Two posts show what appears to be AI illustrations of the former president in an orange jumpsuit, and another depicts him as the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Judge Engoron’s Trump Hating wife, together with his very disturbed and angry law clerk, have taken over control of the New York State Witch Hunt Trial aimed at me, my family, and the Republican Party,” Trump wrote Wednesday, November 29, in a Truth Social post.

The Hill could not independently verify that the X account making anti-Trump posts belonged to the judge’s wife. The account appeared to be deactivated at the time of publication.

On a school alumni page run by Engoron, the judge previously wrote that his wife is a psychoanalyst named Dawn. The Hill attempted to reach her via numerous platforms, but she did not immediately return requests for comment.

The judge’s wife previously told Newsweek that the X account does not belong to her.

“I do not have a Twitter account. This is not me. I have not posted any anti Trump messages,” Dawn Engoron said.

Engoron and his principal law clerk have been frequent targets of the former president throughout his fraud trial.

The judge found Trump, the Trump Organization and several executives—including the former president’s adult sons—liable for fraud before the trial even began, ruling that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) had proved the crux of her case that claims the Trumps falsely inflated and deflated the value of their business’s assets to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage.

That ruling, plus Engoron’s interactive role in the bench trial, has placed him directly in Trump’s line of fire both in court and on social media.

When Trump testified earlier this month, he took shots at Engoron numerous times, calling him “Trump hating” and questioning his impartiality.

“Can you control your client?” Engoron asked Trump’s counsel at the time. “This is not a political rally.”

Trump’s attacks against the judge’s clerk resulted in a limited gag order issued against the former president and his attorneys—barring them from speaking about the judge’s staff. Trump previously testified that he thinks the clerk is “very biased against us.” The order is temporarily paused while it is being considered by an appeals court.

The purported bias of the trial judge and his principal law clerk against Trump was the basis for a mistrial motion earlier this month, asserting the pair have “tainted” the case. Trump’s legal team argued that the appearance of bias “threatens both Defendants’ rights and the integrity of the judiciary as an institution.”

Engoron denied the motion earlier this month, describing it as “utterly without merit.”

Research contact: @thehill

Georgia prosecutors won’t consider plea deals for Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, or Donald Trump

November 30, 2023


Georgia prosecutors in former President Donald Trump’s election interference racketeering case reportedly say they will not consider plea deals for co-defendants Mark Meadows or Rudy Giuliani—or for Trump himself, reports New York’s Daily News.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has decided to proceed to try Trump and his two top lieutenants as the alleged ringleaders of his plot to steal the 2020 election in the Peach State and elsewhere, The Guardian reported on Tuesday, November 28.

Willis has named Trump the leader of the multipronged conspiracy to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows may have hoped to wriggle off the hook in the Georgia case, but has so far unsuccessfully sought to have his case moved to federal court. He offered some cooperation to Special Counsel Jack Smith in exchange for testimony to the federal grand jury investigating the election interference case, but has apparently not made any formal cooperation deal.

Giuliani faces a plethora of legal woes in Georgia and elsewhere—including a slam-dunk defeat in a defamation case filed by Atlanta election workers whom he falsely accused of rigging votes for President Biden. The judgment could bankrupt him.

The ex-mayor also is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal election interference case led by Smith. He submitted to questioning by Smith’s team in what legal analysts called an effort to win a deal to avoid prosecution, but there is no sign that he was successful.

Aside from signaling danger to Meadows and Giuliani, the reported decision by Willis could serve as a flashing invitation to the other dozen or so remaining co-defendants to step up talks for plea agreements in the sprawling case.

The most prominent name that was left off of Willis’ must-face-trial list is

pro-Trump law professor John Eastman.The right-wing law professor is considered the architect of Trump’s alleged scheme to convince Republican lawmakers in Georgia and other battleground states to create bogus slates of pro-Trump electors to muddy the waters of Biden’s victory.

That is one of several intertwined plots laid out in the RICO indictment, along with an effort to bully officials into investigating bogus claims of widespread voter fraud and a bizarre plan to hack into voting machines in a rural pro-Trump Georgia county.

So far, three other Trump lawyers have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Trump and the others, along with a Trump campaign activist who allegedly aided the Coffee County voting machine effort.

That leaves 14 co-defendants still facing the prospect of going on trial alongside Trump. Several of them are relatively low-level participants in the plot; or fake electors who legal analysts say should have a strong incentive to plead guilty and put the case behind them.

Georgia’s RICO law carries sentences of up to 20 years in prison and would not be subject to pardons. The statute is considered a particularly powerful weapon for prosecutors, and Willis has proven her effectiveness at using it to jail crooked mobsters, drug dealers and even cheating teachers.

Willis has asked Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to set an August 5 date for the trial, which is expected to last several months. lf that schedule holds, Trump would face the daunting prospect of being on trial in an Atlanta courtroom during the last months of the 2024 presidential campaign.

Trump faces a March 4 trial in Washington, D.C., in the federal election interference case presided over by District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan.

Research contact: @NYDailyNews


Powerful Koch network endorses Nikki Haley over Ron DeSantis for president

November 29, 2023

The influential political network founded by the billionaire Koch brothers announced on Tuesday, November 28, that it is endorsing Nikki Haley  for president—providing a major lift to her Republican primary campaign as she attempts to catch up with runaway frontrunner  and former President Donald Trump, reports The Daily Beast.

Americans for Prosperity Action said it would give its “full support” to the former South Carolina governor with just seven weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses. The endorsement means that the network will now throw its considerable resources into supporting Haley—believing her to be the candidate most capable of a GOP victory in 2024.

“Our internal polling confirms what our activists are hearing and seeing from voters in the early primary states: Nikki Haley is in the best position to defeat Donald Trump in the primaries,” read a Tuesday memo from Emily Seidel, senior adviser to Americans for Prosperity Action.

“In sharp contrast to recent elections that were dominated by the negative baggage of Donald Trump and in which good candidates lost races that should have been won, Nikki Haley, at the top of the ticket, would boost candidates up and down the ballot, winning the key independent and moderate voters that Trump has no chance to win,” the memo adds.

It also argues that the United States is “being ripped apart by extremes on both sides” and that the country now needs a “tested leader with the governing judgment and policy experience to pull our nation back from the brink. Nikki Haley is that leader.”

The memo explains that the network’s parent group, Americans for Prosperity, has already been “targeting a unique universe of voters who vote reliably in general elections but not in the primaries or caucuses.” “AFP Action has now acquired that data and will encourage a significant number of these general election voters to vote in this primary,” the memo says. “So far, enthusiasm to participate is far beyond what we expected.”

In addition, memo offered “thanks and appreciation” to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is currently Haley’s closest competitor for second place in Iowa. The network said it understands some of DeSantis’ supporters “will be disappointed” with the decision to endorse Haley.

“However, as the 2024 primary season heats up, we are entering a time period that demands choices,” the memo says. “Donald Trump won the nomination in 2016 largely because of a divided primary field, and we must not allow that to happen again, particularly when the stakes are even higher in 2024.”

News of the endorsement going to Haley has apparently not gone down well with the DeSantis campaign.

“Congratulations to Donald Trump on securing the Koch endorsement,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo wrote on X. He went on to argue: “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”

Research contact: @dailybeast

Fox News to air DeSantis vs. Newsom debate on November 30

November 28, 2023

They aren’t running against each other. Still, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) will take their fiery feud to Fox News this week in a debate moderated by Sean Hannity—offering up a head-to-head that stretches the boundaries of traditional political programming, reports The Wall Street Journal.

After trading barbs in the media for more than a year over issues from COVID-era restrictions to immigration, DeSantis and Newsom are scheduled to face off for 90 minutes on Thursday, November 30, in Georgia.

In an interview with the Journal, Hannity—who came up with the idea—described Newsom and DeSantis as “two of the biggest, most interesting governors in the country and they have diametrically opposed political views, visions for how to run their states.”

Fox News and other cable networks air plenty of debates and town halls featuring candidates. Because Newsom and DeSantis aren’t running for the same job, the November 30 event is more akin to cable’s version of an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout for politicians—taking an interesting fight happening outside the core election race and putting a spotlight on it.

Just weeks ago, Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, debated Representative Ro Khanna (D- California) in New Hampshire. The debate covered topics including the economy, foreign affairs and climate change.

The two-person debate format comes in contrast with recent Republican primary debates, which featured a crowded field of candidates—but not the front-runner for the nomination, Donald Trump, who chose not to attend.

“Trump is very present by his absence in these debates,” said Jane Hall, a professor in the School of Communication at American University and the author of “Politics and the Media: Intersections and New Directions.”

DeSantis, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, has struggled to portray himself as a viable alternative to former President Donald Trump and is seeing former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley gain traction. Recent polls in Iowa—the first state to vote in the nomination battle—have shown DeSantis slightly ahead of Haley for second place, both well behind Trump.

For Newsom, the debate offers a chance to further establish himself as a leader of the Democratic Party on a national stage and position himself as a legitimate contender for the presidency down the line.

“It’s a chance to get a lot of viewership,” Hall said. “There’s an entertainment value in seeing people go after each other.”

In July, Hannity, a mainstay of Fox News’s prime-time lineup and the ratings leader in his time slot, held a town hall with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is now running for president as an Independent. He also said he would be eager to have more Democrats on his show.

Joe Biden, he’s at the top of the list. Kamala Harris, number two; Barack Obama’s number three,” said Hannity, who hasn’t asked any of them recently to appear on his show. “The odds of that happening are zero, zero, and zero.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Support for abortion access is near record, WSJ-NORC poll finds

November 27, 2023

New results from a Wall Street JournalNational Opinion Research Center (NORC) poll show that Americans’ support for abortion access is at one of the highest levels on record since nonpartisan researchers began tracking it in the 1970s. Some 55% of respondents say it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if she wants to for any reason, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The poll, conducted for the Journal by NORC at the University of Chicago, surveyed 1,163 registered voters between October 19 and October 24.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the Constitutional right to the procedure, abortion-rights groups have notched up seven consecutive victories in state ballot initiatives. They include an Ohio measure earlier this month to protect abortion under the state Constitution. Behind these successes is a decades-long shift among Americans in support of access to the procedure.

Democrats and Independent voters—whose support of abortion rights was roughly in line with that of Republicans up until the 1990s—now back access to the procedure by greater margins. About 77% of Democrats in the new poll say they support access to abortion for any reason, up from 52% in 2016. Among Republicans, that share is 33%.

Some Republican voters who generally oppose abortion rights don’t want to give state lawmakers the chance to rewrite the rules—a position they see as in keeping with conservative support for limiting government intervention.

Many voters have nuanced views—including backing restrictions later in pregnancy and exceptions for difficult circumstances—that they say aren’t well captured by current legislative proposals. Nearly nine in 10 poll respondents support abortion access in the event of rape or incest, or when a woman’s health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy.

Research contact: @WSJ

Biden campaign targets two key battleground states with ads during Thanksgiving Day football game

November 23, 2023

The Biden campaign has drawn up a blitz of Thanksgiving Day advertisements in two key battleground states—airing a pair of TV spots during the Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers NFL game this week, reports CNN.

Two ads highlighting President Joe Biden’s economic record will air during Thursday’s game in the Detroit and Milwaukee media markets, the campaign said in an announcement shared first with CNN.

It’s a move aimed at putting some points on the board with a general election audience, the campaign said, with the game “expected to reach 1.1 million adults over the age of 35 and 850,000 households in the Detroit market alone.”

As Republicans duke it out in the primary, Biden’s campaign is looking down field to next November—and voters in Michigan and Wisconsin where these ads are running will be critical to Biden’s electoral map.

In Michigan, Biden defeated Trump by 2.8 percentage points in 2020; while, in Wisconsin, Biden won by a narrower margin—6 percentage points.

But polling released earlier this month indicates Biden’s support could be slipping in those midwestern swing states. In a New York Times–Siena College poll of Michigan voters, 43% chose Biden, compared to 48% for Trump. In Wisconsin, Biden narrowly edged out Trump, 47% to 45%.

The Thanksgiving Day ad placement is part of the campaign’s $25 million ad buy announced in August and marks its latest play to reach battleground state voters during football games.

One of the ads discusses Biden’s middle-class upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania—making an argument that acknowledges ongoing economic strain. The ad, titled “Never Left” points to the president’s work to bring down costs on drug pricing, scale back health insurance premiums, and invest in clean energy to lower power costs. Another ad, titled “Finally,” highlights the administration’s efforts to lower prescription drug costs.

Biden, the narrator says in one ad, “knows what life is like for working people. And knows middle class life is too expensive right now.”

“For Joe Biden, it’s about restoring the sense of security working people deserve. That simple promise. That peace of mind. He’s determined to get it back – because of where he’s from and who he is,” the narrator says.

“This Thanksgiving as Americans come together, we are proud to highlight how President Biden and Vice President Harris are focused on the issues that matter most to American families and delivering real tangible results that are lowering costs for everyday Americans,” said Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez.

The Biden team kicked off this effort in September by running TV ads during the NFL season opener between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs. Those ads ran in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In all, the Biden campaign has made more than 90 ad placements around NFL and college football programing totaling more than $1.17 million dollars, a campaign official says.

Research contact: @CNN

Appeals court decision could limit enforcement of Voting Rights Act

Novembver 22, 2023

On Monday, November 19, a federal court issued a decision that could severely curtail enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which could affect voters of color nationwide and will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court, reports The Washington Post.

In its 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that private citizens and groups like the NAACP cannot bring lawsuits under a provision that forbids discrimination in state and local elections laws.

The appellate court found that the key section of the act can only be enforced by the U.S. attorney general. That upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky, who in 2022 dismissed a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ new district map because he said that the Justice Department had to join the plaintiffs.

At the time, voting rights groups argued in their lawsuit that a new map of congressional districts weakened Black voters’ electoral power in the state. Rudofsky, an appointee of President Donald Trump, gave Attorney General Merrick Garland five days to join the groups in the case. When he refused, the case was dismissed.

The 8th Circuit’s decision to uphold Rudofsky’s ruling will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices may be inclined to consider it, along with a conflicting ruling on the same issue by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

If the 8th Circuit ruling is upheld, it could weaken the tools used by voters of color and voting rights activists to ensure voting access by marginalized groups by blocking individuals and private groups from using Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which passed in 1965, that allows citizens to bring legal challenges to redistricting decisions and other actions that weaken their voting power.

In their decision, the 8th Circuit judges noted that, in the past 40 years, at least 182 successful Section 2 cases have been filed and, of those, only 15 “were brought solely” by the attorney general.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Colorado judge rules Trump can be on ballot—but says he ‘engaged’ in insurrection

November 21, 2023

On Friday, November 17, a judge ruled that former President Donald Trump had engaged in insurrection by inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021—but decided that he is not barred from appearing on the primary ballot in Colorado, reports The Washington Post.

The ruling in Colorado’s state court— the first to find that the presidential candidate had participated in an insurrection—served as a rebuke to the Republican front-runner, even as it provided him with a legal victory. Trump has won a string of cases brought by opponents who are trying to keep him off the ballot under a provision of the Constitution (the 14th Amendment) that bars officials who engage in insurrection from holding office.

Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace wrote that Trump “acted with the specific intent to disrupt the Electoral College certification of President Biden’s electoral victory through unlawful means; specifically, by using unlawful force and violence.” And, she concluded, “that Trump incited an insurrection on January 6, 2021 and therefore ‘engaged’ in insurrection.”

An appeal is expected and could ultimately be resolved by the Colorado Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wallace’s ruling came a week and a half after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump could not be removed from the primary ballot in that state and three days after a Michigan judge reached the same conclusion.

Despite the decision’s blunt wording and findings, Trump campaign spokesman Steve Cheung championed the ruling, calling it “another nail in the coffin of the un-American ballot challenges.”

Trump opponents have been bringing their lawsuits state by state in hopes of ultimately securing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that keeps Trump off the ballot in all states. The cases are moving quickly because caucuses and primaries will be held starting in January.

Adopted in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States and guaranteed civil rights to all Americans, including those who had been enslaved. The amendment’s lesser-known Section 3 was aimed at limiting the power of former Confederates by barring from office those who had sworn an oath to the Constitution and later engaged in insurrection.

Although Wallace found that Trump engaged in insurrection, she determined Section 3 does not apply to him. Section 3 refers to some offices by name as well as those who are an “officer of the United States,” but does not specifically mention the presidency.

Wallace determined those who wrote Section 3 “did not intend to include the President as ‘an officer of the United States.’”

The judge also determined that the amendment’s provision technically applied to those who swear an oath to “support” the Constitution. The oath Trump took when he was sworn in after he was elected in 2016 was to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution.

Wallace wrote she did not want to disqualify someone from office “without a clear, unmistakable indication” that that was what those who wrote the 14th Amendment intended.

Even as she ruled in Trump’s favor, Wallace was unsparing in her description of his behavior before, during and after the attack on the Capitol. She found Trump has a “history of courting extremists and endorsing political violence” and knew his supporters were willing to engage in violence.

“The evidence shows that Trump not only knew about the potential for violence, but that he actively promoted it and, on January 6, 2021, incited it,” she wrote.

In Colorado and other states, Trump’s attorneys have argued the attack was not an insurrection, Trump did not participate in it and Trump told his supporters to act peacefully. In addition, they have contended Section 3 does not apply to the presidency and said Congress, not courts, should determine who is eligible to hold office.

The lawsuit was brought by six Republican and independent voters with the help of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington . Noah Bookbinder, the group’s president, said the voters would appeal the case to the Colorado Supreme Court soon.

“We are proud to have brought this historic case and know we are right on the facts and right on the law,” he said in a statement. “Today was not the end of this effort, but another step along the way.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost