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Judge Puts Hunter Biden Plea Deal on Hold for Now

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, an appointee of Donald Trump, balked at accepting a plea deal in which Hunter Biden agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax offenses to avoid punishment on a gun charge. It was a tumultuous 3-hour hearing. In the end, Biden switched stories and pleaded not guilty to all three charges. The surprised judge then postponed further proceedings for at least a month, though Biden would still have the option of going back to the original plea deal if the judge is convinced that it is within normal bounds.

Biden didn't file or pay income taxes in 2017 and 2018, although he later rectified the problem. He also owned a gun at a time when he was a drug user, something federal law prohibits. The deal was reached after a 5-year investigation by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who was appointed by Donald Trump. AG Merrick Garland played no part in the investigation, so it will be a little bit difficult for Republicans to complain that a 5-year investigation run by a Trump appointee let Biden off the hook too easily. Also, it would be a bit unusual for Republicans to be saying that tax evasion is a really serious crime and anyone doing it should rot in prison for the rest of their lives. Similarly, saying that some people shouldn't be allowed to own guns would be something new for Republicans. Still, there are political points to be scored here, so who cares about consistency?

The reason that the judge didn't automatically accept the deal is that it is somewhat unusual. The tax part was pretty standard, but the gun part was not. The agreement there was the feds promising not to pursue Biden for other charges, like foreign lobbying, in return for his admitting that he shouldn't have bought a gun while he was a drug user. That doesn't happen very often and the judge wanted the parties to have time to present arguments explaining why she should accept it. So, Biden is not off the hook yet and this will be continued at some point in the future.

What really ticks off the Republicans, of course, is that they can't find anything in the whole business that can be used against Joe Biden in the campaign. What they are praying their hearts out for is a charge like: "The Chinese government gave Biden junior a bunch of valuable trademarks in hopes of currying favor with the father." Oh wait, no. That was Ivanka. Sorry. (V)

There Will Be an Abortion Shootout Tomorrow in Iowa

The abortion wars are heating up in Iowa. Last month, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) signed a bill that would ban almost all abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Many women don't even know they are pregnant at that point, and when they find out, it is too late. Until she signed the bill, abortion was allowed up to 22 weeks. A state court has temporarily blocked the new law until it can hold a hearing on the merits of the case.

Tomorrow is the Republican Party's annual Lincoln Dinner. Lincoln isn't invited (and probably would not come even if invited, first because he's dead, and second because he would not recognize the current Republican Party as his own). But 13 Republican POTUS wannabes are going to show up and talk about how great it is that Iowa has banned nearly all abortions. Tickets range from $1,500 to $10,000 for a table of 10. At the top level, you and your friends get to go to a reception to meet the candidates. The poor folks with $1,500 tickets just get the rubber chicken and have to sit in the back of the room. If you are going, there are 26 categories of objects that you may not bring, ranging from e-cigarettes to toasters. If you don't like it, too bad; the Second Amendment says nothing about your right to bear toasters.

This is not the first and will not be the last cattle call this year, but every Republican candidate understands it is free publicity in the first state to hold a nominating event, so off they go. Of course, each one will say he or she opposes abortion, so there is no difference among them and it kind of cancels out. Still, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

For some reason, Chris Christie is the only candidate who won't be there. Perhaps it is because while he is anti-abortion, he opposes a national abortion ban, preferring all the states to do it themselves. As a former state governor, maybe he likes the idea of giving the states more power. He hasn't explained. More likely, though, he is consciously avoiding Iowa and simply not competing there because Iowa Republicans are heavily evangelical and he is not their cup of tea. Then when he comes in 14th in the caucuses he can yell: "I never set foot in the state and didn't spend a nickel there. WTF did you expect?" He is betting the farm on doing well in New Hampshire, which is a far more secular state than Iowa, and closer to New Jersey, where he is well known.

In Iowa, 28% of all adults are evangelicals. This means well over 50% of Republican caucusgoers are evangelicals. In New Hampshire, only 13% of all adults are evangelicals. Also, by concentrating on only one state, Christie can basically move there and spend far more time there campaigning than candidates who are dividing their time between Iowa and New Hampshire. To make it more complicated, there are no nonstop commercial flights from Des Moines to Manchester, NH. You have to change planes somewhere. There aren't even any nonstops from Des Moines to Boston. The fastest commercial route from Des Moines to Manchester requires a change of planes in D.C. and takes 5 hours. Throw in an hour to get to or from the airport at each end, and a trip takes 7+ hours. That's a wasted day. Of course, the billionaire candidates can charter a private plane, but there are only a couple of them and the only one of those who is at all competitive is Donald Trump.

Kamala Harris took note of the anti-abortionfest and is going to hold a counter-event in Iowa tomorrow at Grand View University, a 100-year-old private liberal arts school in Des Moines. On the "About" page on its website, Grand View lists "diversity" as the third item, after "About GV" and "community and visitors." The 8-member diversity team has listed 12 demographic categories of students that are welcome there.

Harris has been ramping up her remarks on reproductive rights of late and will certainly focus on them tomorrow. Now that it is campaign season, she is going to take over the role of attack dog from Commander, Joe Biden's dog, who has bitten or attacked Secret Services officers ten times since March. It has not been reported how many officers Harris has bitten this year, but it is probably fewer than ten. The idea of Harris' event is to have the news media do a kind of "split-screen" presentation, with Republican after Republican denouncing abortion and praising the new law while Harris denounces the Republicans and makes it clear she and her (sorta) boss strongly support reproductive rights. The intention, of course, is to get the national media there and make it a national story about the two views. Normally, a vice presidential visit to a small college in a small state wouldn't be newsworthy, but the juxtaposition with the Republican event only 3 miles south of the university turns it into national news on a topic that strongly favors the Democrats. (V)

Abortion Initiative Qualifies for the Nov. 2023 Ballot in Ohio

On Tuesday there was even some hard news that relates to abortion. Supporters of reproductive rights submitted an initiative to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) that would insert a guaranteed right to an abortion in the Ohio Constitution. They had over 700,000 signatures, far more than the 414,000 needed to make it on the Nov. 2023 ballot. Organizers always overshoot the mark because canvassers don't really know if someone they grab on the street and get to sign a petition is an eligible Ohio voter. The Secretary's office checks all the signatures. They found 495,938 valid signatures, more than enough. So LaRose has announced that the measure will be on the ballot this fall. Like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), LaRose is a conservative, but he is also honest and does his job according to the law.

Will the measure get 50% + 1 votes in November? That may not matter because on Aug. 8, less than 2 weeks from now, there is a special election on Issue 1. If passed, it would raise the threshold for ballot initiatives to 60% + 1. The legislature put this on the ballot in a summer special election in the hopes of getting rid of pesky citizen initiatives, like the abortion one. If Issue 1 passes, then the abortion initiative this November will have to meet the 60% + 1 threshold.

Somewhat indirectly, then, the August measure is really about abortion. LaRose has explicitly said that the August measure is not about abortion. You should take that literally but not seriously. It was very misleading of him to say that, but that was intentional on his part. He is strongly against abortion and wants the August measure to pass. In May he said: "The August measure is 100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution." He really, really wants the August measure to pass and then the November measure to fail. Despite his personal views, pro-choice activists hope he will count all the votes correctly. LaRose is running for the Senate, which complicates his position. If he counts all the votes correctly and abortion is enshrined in the state Constitution, some Republicans will say: "Why did you allow that to happen?" This will put some pressure on him to see that that doesn't happen. Raffensperger resisted the pressure put on him. By November we'll know how good LaRose is about resisting it as well.

In Nov. 2022, voters in Kentucky voted 52-48 to reject a measure that would have banned almost all abortions in Kentucky. Ohio is not as deep red as Kentucky, so the abortion amendment is almost certain to get 50% + 1. Whether it gets 60% + 1 is another story, though, so the August election is of crucial importance for abortion in the state. It is also important for women in Indiana and West Virginia, where the procedure is effectively outlawed. Indiana borders four states: Michigan (where abortion is allowed), Illinois (where abortion is allowed), Kentucky (where abortion is outlawed by law rather than by the state Constitution), and Ohio (where everything depends on the two initiatives).

If the August measure in Ohio fails to get 50% + 1 and the November one gets 50% + 1, then women in Indiana will be able to obtain abortions in Michigan, Illinois, or Ohio. That means that pregnant women in Indiana east of Indianapolis will be able to get one in Dayton, OH, or Cincinnati, OH, in less than 2 hours' drive. West of Indianapolis, they can go to Illinois (Champaign, IL, is 2 hours west of Indianapolis on I-74). In fact, if abortion becomes legal in Ohio, there is no place in Indiana more than 2 hours' drive from a state where abortion is legal. To the extent that is not already the case, we expect abortion clinics to be set up on the roads from Indiana to Michigan and Illinois just inside those states to handle out-of-state patients. If abortion is legalized in Ohio, there as well. After all, a clinic does not need surgical facilities. All it needs is a doctor to write prescriptions for mifepristone and misoprostol and a minipharmacy that stocks both. The doctor might not even need to be present if video consultations are permitted and e-mail prescriptions are allowed. If abortion is legalized in Ohio, it also means that no place in mountainous West Virginia will be more than about 3 hours from a state (Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Ohio) that allows abortions. Thus the two initiatives could de facto make abortions possible in three states.

If the Ohio amendment passes, then the abortion map will look like this:

Map of states by abortion

The green states would then show where abortion is legal up to at least 20 weeks, often more. In the purple states, it is illegal in nearly all cases, but it is legal in an adjacent state. We didn't measure all the distances, but it is probably not more than a 3-hour drive from any point in any of the purple states to a state where it is legal. Even if there is no clinic on the border, it is probably possible for a motivated person in any of them to hit the road by 6 a.m. and be home before midnight with abortion pills. Wisconsin is complicated because a 173-year-old law bans surgical abortions but it may not cover medical abortions, which were not done in 1849. The courts have suspended the law for the time being. It will eventually hit the state Supreme Court (see below).

Texas is a special case because it is so big. It borders New Mexico (where abortions are legal up until the moment of birth), but it is a 10-hour drive from Houston to Carlsbad, NM, which has an abortion clinic. That means staying overnight somewhere away from home, which adds cost and complexity. Austin is 8 hours from the clinic and San Antonio is 7 hours each way. That's pushing the envelope for a one-day trip. Effectively, Abilene (4½ hours) is about the limit for an easyish one-day out-and-back trip. Anyone west of Abilene should be able to make it to the clinics in Carlsbad or Las Cruces and back in a day. For people in South Texas, Mexico is an option as most of the border states there allow abortion. However, a passport, passport card, or SENTRI card is needed, and these take time and money to acquire. You also need insurance from a Mexican insurance company, if you are coming by car, and a Mexican visa (FMM).

So in summary, while the anti-abortion forces may have won the war in many states, in reality, women in most states outside the South can get to an abortion clinic and back in a day if they are sufficiently motivated, which most probably are. Only in the deep South (white on the map) and parts of East Texas is it hard to get to an abortion clinic and back in a day with a car. For pregnant women there, the main option will be telemedicine and pills mailed from a blue state with a shield law or from a pharmacy abroad. (V)

Fake Electors in Wisconsin Are Being Sued

Michigan AG Dana Nessel (D) has filed formal charges against the 16 fake electors who falsely certified that they were the true presidential electors in 2020. Nessel has proof on paper that they did this and Michigan law is clear that filing a false certification is a felony (forging an official document). Some of them may flip, but all of them are likely to be spending at least some time rent-free as guests of the State of Michigan. The ones who flip may get shorter sentences, though.

But Michigan wasn't the only state where this particular crime took place. In Arizona, the new AG, Kris Mayes (D), is looking into it, but she has been on the job only 6 months. Wisconsin is another one. The state AG there, Josh Kaul (D), has been very lax about pursuing the fake electors, even though he has been AG since 2020. However, one Wisconsin lawyer, Jeff Mandell, has been a real pitbull about going after the fake electors, despite Kaul's reluctance. Various official commissions have also brushed him off, but he just kept going. Finally he gave up on them and filed a civil lawsuit against the fake electors on behalf of two of the actual electors and some others. It seeks $2.4 million in damages. The two actual electors probably have standing to sue because if the fake electors had been accepted, they would have lost their status as presidential electors, which although not a paid job, is a great honor. After all, in all of U.S. history, fewer than 20,000 people have actually voted for president.

Here is a list of the fake electors:

  • Carol Brunner: vice chairwoman of Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District Republican Party;
  • Mary Buestrin: former national committeewoman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin;
  • Darryl Carlson: unsuccessful candidate for state Assembly as a Republican in 2014;
  • Bill Feehan: unsuccessful candidate for state Senate as a Republican in 2012;
  • Scott Grabins: then-chairman of the Dane County Republican Party;
  • Andrew Hitt: then-chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin;
  • Kathy Kiernan: chairwoman of the 5th Congressional District Republican Party;
  • Kelly Ruh: former chairwoman of the 8th Congressional District Republican Party;
  • Robert Spindell Jr.: a Republican-appointed member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission; and
  • Pam Travis: vice chair of the 7th Congressional District Republican Party.

Spindell is particularly obnoxious. He has bragged about how he was very successful in suppressing election turnout in Black and Latino areas of the state, especially Milwaukee. Also named in the suit are Jim Troupis, Trump's point man on election challenges, and Kenneth Chesebro, the mastermind behind key aspects of implementing the fake elector scheme. Chesebro was in the room in Wisconsin when the fake electors forged the election certificates.

Having two slates of electors filed has happened once before. In 1960, just after Hawaii had become a state, the election was so close that on the day the certificates had to be filed, no one knew who had won the state. Both slates got together in the same room, with the governor and local media present, and both sets of certificates were signed in public. In contrast, the fake Wisconsin electors met in secret, with armed guards protecting them. And they did this after the state Supreme Court ruled that Joe Biden won the state. While the fake electors will surely bring up Hawaii as a precedent, that is completely bogus since the fake Wisconsin electors met and signed after the state Supreme Court ruling.

It is possible that Special Counsel Jack Smith is already looking at all the fake electors. It is also possible that Kaul will now be motivated to get on the stick because if Mandell wins his civil suit, Kaul will look very bad for not even trying. Mandell's case has been assigned to Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington. The electors asked him to allow each elector to be tried in his or her own county instead of in one case. Remington shot that down real fast. Remington also set a date for the trial: Sept. 3, 2024. The trial is expected to take a month. That makes it entirely possible that roughly one month before the 2024 presidential election, "Fake Trump Electors Found Guilty of Trying to Subvert 2020 Election" could be on the front pages around the country. The person who said there's no such thing as bad publicity never pondered that scenario. Also, if Trump were to try that trick again in 2024, it could be a tad harder to find people willing to risk being fake electors. (V)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Is Likely to Be a Hotbed of Activity Soon

For the first time in 15 years, "Democrats" will have a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court as a result of the election of Janet Protasiewicz in April. We put "Democrats" in quotes because the judges are officially nonpartisan, but... everyone knows where they stand. Liberal groups in the state are champing at the bit to bring numerous key cases to the Court as soon as possible.

Highest on the list of cases Democrats want to get before the Court are Republican-drawn federal and state district maps. If the Court rules that gerrymandering violates the state Constitution, it could decide to appoint a special master to draw new maps for the U.S. House, the state House, and the state Senate. Despite the fact that Wisconsin is the most evenly balanced state in the country, the congressional delegation is 2D, 6R. A fair map could make many of the districts competitive and might cost the Republicans two or three House seats. Both chambers of the state legislature are wildly gerrymandered. The gerrymander is probably the worst in the entire country. The state House is 35D, 63R with one vacancy and the state Senate is 11D, 21R, also with one vacancy. A fair map before 2024, a presidential year in which turnout is expected to go through the roof, could conceivably flip either or both chambers.

The key issues here are (1) how fast could a case make it to the Court and (2) will the Court rule that gerrymandering violates the state Constitution. If everything moves very fast (which is not exactly the norm in the legal world), it is at least conceivable that the Democrats could have the trifecta in 2025. Then all manner of laws could be passed/repealed. Also, of course, the civil case against the fake electors (see above) is likely to end up in the state Supreme Court and if Kaul brings criminal charges against the fake electors, that will also end up there. So a lot could change due to the April election of Protasiewicz.

Gerrymandering isn't the only issue the Democrats want (re)litigated. Others include a pre-Civil War abortion law, school choice, and the 12-year-old law banning collective bargaining for public employees. And naturally, if the Wisconsin 2024 presidential election is close again, there are sure to be lawsuits and they are sure to end up in the state Supreme Court, although an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is also possible for federal elections. That is much less likely on cases involving state maps because the U.S. Supreme Court has basically kicked the matter back to the state courts.

Another (slightly weird) issue that will come before the state Supreme Court is a result of the governor's power to veto parts of bills. A bill that came to the desk of Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) earlier this year increased spending on education per pupil by $325. The original text read in part:

"For the limit for the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year, add $325 to the result"

Evers struck out some individual characters, including numbers and a hyphen (shown in red below):

"For the limit for the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year, add $325 to the result

The final text of this line then read:

"For the limit for 2023-2425, add $325 to the result"

The result was a bill that will increase school funding every year for the next 402 years, something that Evers, a former teacher, was pleased to sign. Republicans called foul, although state law does allow the governor to veto any portion of a bill that he wants to. Needless to say, this is going to end up in the state Supreme Court as well. (V)

Young Voters Are Getting Steadily More Progressive

Turnout among young voters was unexpectedly high in 2018, largely due to young people opposing Donald Trump. In 2020, it stayed high, resulting in Trump's defeat. In 2022, it was still high, blocking the expected "red wave." Many Republicans are worried that this may become a new feature of American elections and is likely to turn out very badly for the GOP.

Worse yet is that on numerous key issues, young voters are getting more progressive by the year. Here is a graph of results from the Harvard Youth Poll relating to gun laws, climate change, same sex relationships, and food and shelter as a legal right. The graph is shown so that the higher the number, the more people take the progressive position on the issue:

Results of Harvard Youth Poll on four key issues

As you can see, voters from 18 to 29 are clearly shifting in a progressive direction. If they are also voting in larger numbers since 2018, this is a double whammy for the Republicans. Among other things, 53% reject the idea that same-sex relationships are morally wrong, 63% want stricter gun laws, and 62% want government to provide basic necessities. This is Andrew Yang's moment, but he is nowhere to be found. Only the need for action on climate has dropped a bit in the past 3 years, but is still way up from where it was in 2010. The dip could be a result of the specific wording, which asked if respondents wanted action on climate even at the expense of economic growth. Not on the graph is the small matter of abortion. In 2010, 54% wanted it legal in all cases; now that is 69%.

By the 2036 election, zoomers will represent 35% of the eligible voters. Unless the Republicans change their policies by then, they will become a minority party with almost no chance of winning national elections and little chance of winning statewide elections except in the reddest of states. However, young voters are less enthusiastic about Joe Biden than they were about Barack Obama. Of course, Biden is not a young, charismatic, dynamic candidate. If the Democrats nominate Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) in 2028 the Republicans are going to have a California-size problem. (Z)

Manhood Is the New Hot Issue

The culture wars now have a new front: manhood. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) published a book last year entitled Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs. It is all about being tough. It's enough to make a Texan proud, even though Hawley is from Missouri and on Jan. 6, 2021, proved that although he approves of toughness, he is personally a coward, as he ran away when he saw trouble brewing. On the other hand, Richard Reeve's book Of Boys and Men takes a completely different approach to what manhood is all about.

Hawley blames the decline of masculinity on the left. Reeves blames it on the lack of a support system for young men who need help and can't get it. Thus the debate rages.

One thing about this debate is that it has generated some polling questions that quite accurately determine who people are likely to vote for. People were asked if they agree with the follow statements, with the result by partisanship.

Statement Democrats Republicans
The Democratic Party is hostile to masculine values Yes: 6%, No: 62% Yes: 68%, No: 8%
Family structure with a wage-earning father and homemaking mother is best Yes: 16%, No: 59% Yes: 52%, No: 24%
The MeToo movement made it harder for men to speak freely at work Yes: 21%, No:43% Yes: 65%, No: 10%
I support increased military spending Yes: 40%, No: 47% Yes: 81%, No: 11%
Has American society become too soft and feminine Yes: 19%, No: - Yes: 68%, No: -

So a "yes" on all five is a very good predictor of who is a Republican and who is likely to vote for Donald Trump. A "no" on all five predicts the opposite. However, the crosstabs didn't break things down by ethnicity. Some Democrats agree with the statements. It is possible that these were Latino men, who are often quite macho, but vote for Democrats for economic reasons. Future surveys should take this into account. In any event, we expect that the subject of what "real men" want will come up quite a bit in 2024, especially since jobs that require great physical strength (like being a lumberjack or longshoreman) are declining and desk jobs that require computer skills (like being a programmer or database administrator) are increasing. (V)

Public Libraries Are the Next Battleground

First it was schools, now it is libraries. The book burners are upping their game. Meetings of library boards are the new school board meetings. And they are now just as contentious. As usual, a small number of conservatives want to ban books they haven't even read because they are afraid they are telling boys they can become girls and girls they can become boys. There is big trouble in libraryland.

For example, the Warren County, VA, Public Library board meetings typically drew zero attendees other than the board members. The last one drew 120 spectators, many of whom wanted to ban some books, at least from the childrens' section. Most involved LGBTQ+ people in one way or another. The county board of supervisors had just agreed to withhold 75% of the library's funding until the complaints from conservatives were addressed. Something had to be done since there was only enough money to continue operating through September unless the county relented. This puts the librarian in a real bind, especially since public libraries do more than lend books these days. They help job hunters and new English speakers, help grandma digitize family photos, and give kids a place to hang out, especially if it is hot outside and they have air conditioning. Shutting down does more than just keep people from checking out books.

The trend of politicizing public libraries is probably due to two factors. First, publishers see that there is a market for LGBTQ+ books at all levels and are publishing them. Libraries are noticing that patrons are checking them out, so they order more. Second, conservatives who have been policing school libraries have gotten wind of this development and begun to inspect books at public libraries and object to ones they don't like. In Warren County, someone even set up a website to rally residents to the cause of "cleaning up" the public library. Among other things, it said: "Right now, innocence is under attack at our local Samuels Library. Explicitly pornographic 'young adult' books, as well as books that promote fetishes such as the LGBTQ+ ideology have been found in the children's and young adults sections of the library." The site explained how to get a library card and how to file an objection to a book. In the month before that went up, seven objections were filed. After it went up, 590 were filed in a month targeting 134 different books. Each objection requires staffers to read the book objected to and follow a protocol checking them against library policies. Also, Potter Stewart, who couldn't define pornography but knew it when he saw it, isn't available as a consultant because he has been dead for 38 years. Is a young adult book about straightforward sex education with black-and-white line drawings of male and female anatomy pornography? What about a book that doesn't show any nudity or anatomy, but contains this cartoon? Is it pornographic?

Cartoon with boy and girl looking in their underpants

There is also a group of people who are defending the books conservatives want to ban. They say that some books speak to vulnerable children who are confused about their identities and don't understand their own feelings. They say that no one is forcing any child to read any book. If a parent is worried about what books a child is picking, then the parent can accompany the child to the library to oversee the books the child selects.

One of us (V) was a fanatic library user as a kid. He remembers that the card catalog had "l.c." in the lower right corner of cards for some books. That indicated "locked case." Books marked l.c. in the childrens' section were accessible to young patrons, but the kid had to explicitly ask the librarian to get the book, which they generally did. This system didn't ban books but also ensured, for better or worse, that no child ran into an l.c. book by accident. But if a child specifically wanted some l.c. book and had the nerve to ask for it, it was available. This might be a compromise even now, but nowadays, nobody wants compromise. Everyone wants to make a point.

It should be noted that most of the outrage and desire to ban books has come from the right. If people on the left wanted to balance things out, they could demand that copies of the Bible and all works about religion be placed in the fiction section. After all, that's how they do it at Costco:

The price tag on the Bible says $14.95/Fiction

That might divert some of the attention away from LGBTQ+ books. (V)

Giuliani Admits He Lied about the Georgia Election Workers Who Sued Him

After the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani claimed that election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss stuffed the ballot box, causing Donald Trump to lose Georgia. They testified before the Jan. 6 commission that Giuliani's remarks led to death threats and more, so they had to quit their jobs and go into hiding. Effectively Giuliani's remarks ruined their lives, so they sued him for defamation.

On Tuesday, Giuliani admitted that what he said about the two women was false and met the factual elements of liability. He even said that his attacks were intended to inflict emotional distress on the two women, both of whom are Black. An aide to Giuliani said that the former mayor wants to skip the fact finding portion of the suit and move onto the legal issues.

The lawyers for Freeman and Moss said: "Giuliani's stipulation concedes what we have always known to be true—Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss honorably performed their civic duties in the 2020 presidential election in full compliance with the law and the allegations of election fraud he and former-President Trump made against them have been false since day one."

Giulani's admission is intended to end the discovery phase of the trial, in which the lawyers for Freeman and Moss have asked for many documents that Giuliani has refused to produce. His refusal has so angered U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell that she has threatened severe sanctions on Giuliani for noncompliance. She has even threatened him with ending the case right now and ruling for the plaintiffs. He and his lawyers hope that now that the facts are undisputed, the legal issues will come into play. Specifically, Giuliani is claiming that he had a constitutional right to lie about what the women did due to the First Amendment's freedom of speech provision, so what he did, while annoying to the women, does not amount to defamation.

Legal experts have characterized Giuliani's statement as "desperate" and "trying to cut his losses." Howell, an Obama appointee, is 66 and got her law degree from Columbia University Law School 40 years ago. She has worked in private practice, as an assistant U.S. attorney, as general counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and for the past 13 years as a federal judge. She has seen it all and is not going to suddenly let Giuliani off the hook so easily. He's still in deep doodoo and this new statement might even make it worse. In football, this is called a "Hail Mary play." (V)

Kentucky Fried... Brain?

Truth be told, we are quite skeptical that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did the hippie thing back in the 1960s, and that his past substance abuse is now coming home to roost. But if you didn't know his politics, you'd think it was a possibility given what happened at his press conference yesterday:

It's only a minute long, so you should consider watching it. If you don't want to, however, the Minority Leader was conducting his weekly press conference when he absolutely froze mid-sentence and remained silent for more than 20 seconds. Then, clearly concerned colleagues (like Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX) asked if he was OK, and McConnell did not reply. After another 30 seconds, he was escorted off, still silent.

There is no way to know, at this point, what went wrong. Could have been a mini-stroke, or dehydration, or the wrong dose of the blood thinners he reportedly takes, or hypoglycemia, or any of half a dozen other things. If McConnell cares about his health, he will need to see a doctor for a full workup. If he cares about his political career, he'll have to provide his voters an explanation for what happened, and why it's not an indication of incapacity.

It should be noted that about 10 minutes after being led off, McConnell returned to the podium and was entirely sharp, mentally, as he answered questions (though he did brush off questions about the incident, only noting that he was "fine."). What we will say is that what happened with McConnell was far worse and more concerning than anything that has happened with the also-born-in-1942 Joe Biden. We are inclined to think that McConnell is OK, and that what took place was just a blip on the radar. However, there are now three intellectually honest positions when it comes to the talk of mental infirmity among octogenarian politicians these days: (1) McConnell appears to be worse off than Biden, (2) Both men appear to have significant problems, or (3) Both men had a few rough moments, but it's nothing to worry about.

By contrast, barring new information, anyone who talks about how Biden's mind is gone but who ignores McConnell's incident (along with a few falls and other issues this year for the Kentuckian) is being wildly inconsistent, and is probably selling something, like their ideas on how you should vote. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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