Dem 51
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GOP 49
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020 Senate: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 Senate : (None)

Gaetz Promises to Use the Single-Use Fire Extinguisher

Maybe you think MTV has something to do with television. Not anymore. Starting now, it stands for Motion To Vacate. Yesterday, we wrote that a motion to vacate the chair (i.e., try to fire Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA) is like a single-use fire extinguisher: You can use it only one time. We speculated that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) might be able to control his impulses and save that one use for a more-important moment later—like when McCarthy works with the Democrats on the actual budget bill, not on some bill that merely kicks the can so it bangs into the Thanksgiving turkey. If the motion to vacate fails to get 218 votes, Gaetz will be shown to be a paper tiger and such motions will be useless in the future. If it works and McCarthy is also kicked down the road, no future potential speaker will ever make the concessions that McCarthy made.

Yesterday, Gaetz told CNN's Jake Tapper: "I think we need to rip off the band-aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy." We don't know what Gaetz has been smoking, but he definitely has been inhaling it. There is no way that the Freedom Caucus will get a more pliant speaker than McCarthy. If Gaetz thinks that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) or Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) or one of the crazy ladies from Georgia or Colorado could get 218 votes, he is completely delusional. Most likely, one of three things will happen: (1) McCarthy won't be deposed at all because the votes aren't there, (2) McCarthy will be deposed, but will win the speakership again, possibly after another 15 rounds of voting or (3) some moderate Republican will be elected speaker with 200 Democratic votes. None of those scenarios will make Gaetz a happy man.

McCarthy does have his supporters, though—albeit some of them in the other chamber. Yesterday on Face the Nation, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said: "I think Kevin is the right guy at the right time. The only way he loses his job is if a handful of Republicans join up with the Democratic Party to fire him. That would be a disaster for the future of the Republican Party." Sounds like he is giving the Democrats some advice on how to vote if Gaetz pulls the trigger and makes the motion to vacate the chair. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is no longer in the Democratic leadership but is still a highly respected leader among the Democrats, was coy. She told Tapper: "My advice to my fellow Democrats is simple: Follow the leader." However, not all Democrats are on the same page as Pelosi. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also went on CNN and said: "I do not intend on voting for a Republican speaker of the House, but I believe that it's up to the Republican Conference to determine their own leadership and deal with their own problems." So she is a "yes" vote on the MTV no matter what the Democratic leadership wants. But she left open the door a little by suggesting that with enough concessions from McCarthy, maybe she could reach "no." Other Democrats made it clear that they will do whatever Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) asks them to do. We may find out soon what that is.

Since the motion to vacate is almost a certainty, the Democrats have to start thinking of what their strategy will be. They might not be united. Ocasio-Cortez is not the only progressive who would be happy to dump McCarthy. That probably holds for most or all of the 100+ Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. What about the rest? Will Jeffries tell McCarthy that he needs to make big-time concessions to get his support, starting with denouncing his own decision to investigate Joe Biden? What if McCarthy refuses?

Suppose Jeffries tells his members to vote their districts and McCarthy survives. Then Gaetz could introduce an MTV again and force a second vote. And a third one. Sometime around MTV 15, will McCarthy give up? Or will Gaetz? Could McCarthy get a rule passed saying that henceforth it takes 10 or 20 or 50 members to force a vote on an MTV?

For Democrats, a fundamental issue is whether they want to keep McCarthy or try to get one of the moderate Republicans elected as speaker, largely with Democratic votes—if that is even possible. One argument for the Democrats keeping McCarthy is that it's better the devil known than the devil unknown. But an argument for ditching him is that he is by far the House Republicans' best fundraiser. If he is booted, there is no one else in the GOP caucus who can match his donor network and relationships. Getting rid of him would cripple the NRCC and help the Democrats retake the House in 2024.

For Jeffries, these are "interesting" times. Never before has the minority leader had so much power. What should he do? What would Jesus do? No, scratch that. What would Nancy do? (V)

Newsom Makes His Pick

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has the power and responsibility to name the replacement for the late Dianne Feinstein to the Senate. Long ago, he said a couple of things that have come back to haunt him. First, he said he'd pick a Black woman if he got another Senate pick. Second, he said he wouldn't pick sides in the 2024 primary by choosing someone who might run for the open seat. That rather limits his options, particularly if he wants someone whose résumé justifies such a prestigious posting.

If Feinstein had passed away a year ago, the pick likely would have been Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who is now 77. It would have been the capstone to a long and distinguished career, and someone who is north of 75 surely wouldn't run for for a job where it takes 15-20 years to get real power, right? Wrong. Lee declared for the race, and so now she violates Newsom rule #2. She's out.

Next on the list, very probably, is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is 85 and who would be an ideal placeholder. She is a fire-breathing progressive and that wing of the Democratic Party would be pleased with her appointment. The only problem is that she doesn't want the job. If she runs for reelection and wins (something she has done 17 times already) and Democrats take control of the House, she will become chair of the House Banking Committee. That would be a far more powerful position than being a junior senator.

How about Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who is 69? Not likely. She just spent over a year fighting hard for her current job. She can, and probably will, be mayor for 7 more years. And as mayor, she's the biggest fish in the pond, which many politicians prefer to being a much smaller fish in a much bigger pond. Especially when you only get to be that small fish for a year.

If the mayor of California's most important city is out, how about the mayor of its second most important? San Francisco Mayor London Breed is only 49 and she has been involved in a number of ethics scandals. Polls show that half of San Francisco residents disapprove of the job she is doing and three-quarters think the city is heading in the wrong direction. She could well lose reelection in 2024. If Newsom is willing to pick someone who is sorta radioactive, serving in the Senate would get her off the hook, so she would probably be amenable. Then she would have to find something else to do. Maybe she could help plot the overthrow of the U.S. government. We hear that is a popular second act for former big-city mayors.

Another possible candidate is California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. She got that job because Newsom plucked her out of the California Assembly and put her there after sending then-SoS Alex Padilla to the Senate. Weber was born in Arkansas but her family fled to California after a white mob threatened to lynch her father. She got her Ph.D. from UCLA and had a decorated career as an academic before running for the Assembly. She is as progressive as Lee and is 75. However, she said she supports Lee for the promotion, and doesn't want to be a turncoat.

There's also Malia Cohen, who is Controller of California. She would have to give up a statewide position. She is only 45 and is obviously nowhere close to retirement. For her, the gamble would be that a year in the Senate could be a stepping stone to something else. She might see a seat in the Senate as a step down. Maybe something as a lobbyist or something in the private sector in banking? Some people are willing to give up what they have now and take a risk. However, she could also decide she kinda likes D.C., and might want to run for a term in her own right. It's not like "I promise to be a placeholder" is legally binding. If Newsom wants to be sure, it has to be someone who is not likely to get delusions of grandeur.

One last politician possibility is Holly Mitchell (59). She was in the Assembly for 3 years, then 7 years in the state Senate. Now she is on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. She is 59, so after her year as a senator she would be 60. Then what? Maybe work for some nonprofit or run for some statewide office? Plus, L.A. Supervisors are actually quite powerful, so much so that they are known as the "five little kings," and can generally do more to implement change than one senator can (even if it's many fewer people being affected). Oh, and L.A. Supervisors can serve for up to 12 years. It is our understanding that 12 years is more than 1 year.

And here, now, is the point of all of this. Newsom really painted himself into a corner, because there aren't great options for him. Every notable politician he might pick is either not interested, or fails one of his two "tests," or has baggage, or is a risk to decide that they might like to run for Senate after all. He could pick an obscure officeholder, but promoting someone from the Assembly or the West Cupcake City Council to the U.S. Senate would not be a great look. The new senator will be responsible for representing nearly 40 million people, and there literally isn't time for them to learn the ins and outs of big-time politics on the job.

But the Governor is pretty sharp, or else he has some pretty sharp people working for him, because he managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat. His choice is... EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler. She's a Black woman, so she fulfills that part of the promise. Although she's only in her 40s, she's not terribly likely to decide she wants to run for the Senate after all (plus, while most of the other candidates would be risking successful careers, Butler's private-sector employer would probably welcome her back after a year, since a U.S. senator's name on the masthead is great for marketing). And while she's not an experienced officeholder, running a major PAC requires many of the same skills. Although Butler is a California native and votes in the Golden State, she's based in Washington and knows pretty much everyone.

And Butler not only extracts Newsom from the problem he created for himself, she also checks some "bonus" boxes that he's undoubtedly delighted to check. She's not only a woman, she runs one of the most important pro-woman organizations in the country. That will please women voters. She's Black, of course. She's progressive, so the lefties will be happy. And she's gay, making this a tip of the cap to that community. Now Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) won't have to eat alone when there's a lunch meeting of the Senate Lesbian Caucus.

It will not take long to seat Butler. All that really has to happen is that the California Secretary of State has to produce credentials affirming that Butler is the duly chosen replacement for Feinstein, and is legally entitled to the vacant seat. Then, the Secretary of the Senate has to approve the paperwork, Butler has to be sworn in, and that's that. Normally, she'd need some time to hire a staff, but under the circumstances, she'll surely just keep Feinstein's staff in place. The new senator will presumably be on the job by the end of the week, and it's not impossible that she takes her seat sometime today. And then the number of colleagues who hate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will once again be at 99. (V & Z)

Trump Calls Haley a "Birdbrain"

After a second debate performance that many observers said was stellar, Nikki Haley was riding high. She has no chance at being the Republican presidential nominee, but maybe she had a shot at being Donald Trump's running mate. After all, he might decide that having a woman on the ticket could help him with women voters and she has a substantial amount of experience, as a legislator (majority whip in the South Carolina House), as a governor (of South Carolina), and as a diplomat (ambassador to the United Nations). She is also an effective public speaker. Her actual track record shows that she is also plenty conservative. On paper she looks pretty good.

But Trump is not impressed with Haley. He called her a "birdbrain," which is clearly not true. She was certainly one of the most intelligent people on the debate stage. So why did he write on his boutique social media site: "No loyalty, plenty of lies"? And also: "Anyway, Birdbrain doesn't have the TALENT or TEMPERAMENT to do the job"? The answer may be that much earlier in the cycle she said: "I will never run against our great President. He has done an outstanding job." Then she decided to run against him anyway, which is unpardonable as far as he is concerned. And "unpardonable" is something he cares about a lot. Her response to Trump's comment was: "Love this. It means we are in 2nd and moving up fast. Bring it!"

During the second debate, Haley agreed with Trump's views on China in terms of economic policies, but said that he dropped the ball on other issues, like shipping fentanyl to the U.S., placing a base in Cuba, and sending spy balloons over the U.S. Criticizing Trump is a fatal flaw, of course.

Our conclusion is that Trump is not going to pick Haley as his veep. If he did, the Democrats would go wild repeating his quote above about her. So who's left? Not many women. Pretend-governor Kari Lake looks like she is set on a Senate run in Arizona. If Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is really having a long-running affair with Corey Lewandowski, it would be dangerous to pick her because the right-leaning women who might appreciate having a woman on the ticket would probably not appreciate one who is cheating on her husband. Maybe Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), although she is only 39, has faked her whole career as a Trumpist, and has a toddler at home. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR) makes Sarah Palin look like a math whiz. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is Boebert-level loony. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) voted for certification on Jan. 6, 2021, so not her. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) is a possibility, though. Also Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). How about Ivanka? Oh wait, she lives in Florida now. Other than the two Iowans, there are not a lot of plausible Republican women out there who could help the ticket. Picking one of the Iowa women and announcing it before the caucus would probably sew up the nomination right then and there. In the end, Trump might conclude there are no suitable women and pick a man. There are plenty of potential candidates among men, from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is white, to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), who is Black, and many others. Of course, if Trump goes with someone who is actively representing Florida in Congress, then the former president will have to establish residency elsewhere, just to avoid the risk of getting stuck with a Democrat as his VP. (V)

Anti-Trump Republican Group Shows How to Damage Trump

Not every Republican loves Donald Trump. Some of them, especially well-heeled donors, actively hate him (because they are still grieving for St. Ronald of Reagan). Some of the big donors are even trying to do something to get rid of Trump. A PAC associated with the Club for Growth, Win It Back, has been working on developing ads to see what works best against Trump. Their modus operandi was to produce ads (of which they have made 40 and counting), then show them to 12 focus groups of Trump voters. Next, the winners were field tested in selected cities in Iowa and South Carolina by running the ads on Fox News and other conservative media. They ran polls before and after the ads, both in cities where the ads ran and cities where they didn't (the control group) to see what effect they had on a larger audience. Win It Back is a pretty serious operation that has spent $6 million so far.

David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, wrote a memo to his donors reporting on the findings so far. As with so much "secret" stuff, the memo leaked out. A reporter for The New York Times, Jonathan Swan (formerly with Axios) snagged a copy and wrote a story about it. That's how it goes.

The main finding is that ads that attempt to take Trump down on the issues all fail. They made ads in which Trump said something and then directly after that clip show Joe Biden saying exactly the same thing, with the implication (sometimes made explicit), that Trump is a far-left liberal, just like Biden. Many ways of trying to undermine Trump's "conservative" credentials all failed. The people in the focus groups just ignored what they saw and said "Oh, it's just Trump. He's like that." None of the policy ads moved the needle at all. His supporters simply don't care what he says or what policies he is for. What they love is his xenophobia, bigotry, and ability to make liberals' blood boil. They don't care about specific policies on anything.

Examples of failed ads focus on the pandemic, vaccines, praise of Anthony Fauci, abortion, his failed wall project, wokeness, and gun control. Trump just rambles all the time, so there is plenty of video of him saying things that conservatives hate, often followed by the exact opposite. So it is not hard to put together a carefully curated video of him saying things that would make Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) give him a big hug. But none of them make Trump's supporters have any doubts about him. And remember, the people running the project are Trump-hating pros who know what they are doing, use a solid methodology, and have all the money they need. None of the policy ads worked.

What is also interesting is that many of the ads Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has been airing hit the same themes that McIntosh's failed ads do. DeSantis is discovering the hard way that talking about "woke" is useless. Win It Back discovered the same thing using carefully designed controlled experiments in which some people saw the ads, some people didn't, and the before and after polls in both groups were compared. Is it surprising that DeSantis is flailing? What is interesting here is that the big-money people on the right very much believe in the scientific method and know exactly how to run proper experiments. Marketing departments in big companies do this kind of thing all the time.

The ads that worked best were ads going after Trump's character, Trump fatigue, and his harping on 2020, rather than policy ads. His Achilles heel is his personality, style, and character, not his policy positions.

All of the "successful" ads started with the "stars" of the ads saying how much they love Trump, how they were so happy to vote for him twice, or something like that, to establish their bona fides as someone worth listening to. If viewers didn't know this, they would just write them off as Commie pinko liberals and ignore the rest of the ad. All of the actors look like ordinary people you might see every day. They are men, women, young, and old. Here are a few of these ads.


The character ads resulted in a net drop of 10-15 points in Trump's favorability among his supporters measured by various metrics and questions in the before-and-after surveys. The WIB researchers observed a drop off after about three ads. By the time people had been exposed to three ads in consecutive weeks, more of the same didn't have much additional impact.

The memo linked to above has more detail, but the bottom line is that policy ads don't work against Trump because his supporters don't really care about policy, even when he says things they hate. The way to get to them is to show that he is a loser or past his use-by date. Now that this fairly extensive data set is out there, it behooves the Biden campaign to try to reproduce the experiment (just in case McIntosh is trying to ratf**k the Democrats, although a memo to his own donors would be the wrong place to try that). If they come to the same conclusion as Mcintosh, they need to create ads showing Trump as old, feeble, confused, and generally a loser. If they want to go whole hog, they could also create ads in which Trump supporters are talking about him and at the end have them say: "I am a lifelong Republican and could never vote for a Democrat, so I am not going to vote this year." In other words, voter suppression ads. That also helps Democrats win the House and hold the Senate. Or if No Labels picks a Republican as presidential candidate (e.g. Larry Hogan), Biden's ads could encourage dyed-in-the-wool Republicans to vote for the No Labels candidate. (V)

One of the Georgia 19 Has Flipped

First it is the small fish, then the medium fish. Finally it's the bigger fish. One of the smallest fish among the 19 indictees in the Georgia RICO case has now officially flipped. Scott Hall, who owns a bail bond business, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors in Georgia. On Friday, he pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to interfere with an election. He got 5 years probation, a $5,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service. He also has to write a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia. He can probably raise $5,000 on GoFundMe and get ChatGPT to write the apology letter, but he'll have to do the community service himself. Maybe he could agree to be an election worker for free so he can help Trump and log his 200 hours at the same time.

What Hall did was conspire with others to illegally access the voting machines in rural Coffee County, GA, to obtain proprietary data or perhaps change the results in order to show the machines didn't work or there was fraud.

Another part of the deal is that he has agreed to testify truthfully if called up in the trials of the other 18 defendants. Prosecutors would never allow this unless they already had recorded his potential testimony under oath and on video. That way, if he changed his story in court, they could charge him with perjury, either for his deposition or for his in-court testimony. What Fulton DA Fani Willis probably wants to know is who organized the plot to subvert the voting machines. Someone must have contacted him to sign him up. Who? Rudy Giuliani? Someone else?

Hall was also involved in the effort to pressure election worker Ruby Freeman. He could tell the court how that worked in detail. Unfortunately for him, while his plea deal will keep him out of prison, it won't prevent a possible lawsuit from Freeman, who has an excellent lawyer and is on a roll now. On the other hand, Hall might not have enough money to make it worthwhile. You can't get blood out of a stone (unless it is Roger).

Willis may want Hall to testify against two other members of the RICO 19, Misty Hampton, a former Coffee County elections supervisor, and Cathy Latham, a former head of the Coffee County Republican Party and one of the bogus electors. Latham's defense fund on GiveSendGo seems to have stalled at under $22,000 of the $300,000 she thinks she will need for lawyers' fees. Prayers are also stalled around 2,800. Once she comes to realize that she may come up $278K short and Willis has a direct witness against her in Hall, she could be the next to flip. Hampton could follow. This is how the game is played. Willis understands it very well.

Hall isn't just some random Trump supporter. He is the brother-in-law of David Bossie, a long-time conservative activist. Bossie was deeply involved in the Citizens United group, which won a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2010. The case allowed special-interest political groups to spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing candidates for office. Bossie did so well that Trump made him his deputy campaign manager in 2016.

The trials of Ken "The Cheese" Chesebro and Sidney Powell are in 3 weeks. If they want to flip, this is prime flipping time. (V)

Feinstein's Death May Be Worth $3.2 Million to Adam Schiff

Dianne Feinstein's death will have a surprising effect on the Senate race for the open seat from which she was retiring. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) are in a hotly contested battle for it. California is an expensive state and in the fundraising battle, Schiff is far ahead. As of June 30, here is how much cash they had on hand (also for the irrelevant candidate, Lexi Reese, a former executive at American Express and Google):

Cash on hand for Senate candidates in California per June 30;
Schiff has about $30 million, Porter has about $10 million, Lee has about $1 million, and Reese has $600,000.

It is widely expected that Schiff and Porter will meet in the runoff in November, 2024. Whichever one wins will take the seat on Jan. 3, 2025. However, Gavin Newsom's appointee, Laphonza Butler, will serve only until a special election is held on Nov. 5, 2024, and someone is elected to fill out the rest of Feinstein's term. The winner will serve starting as soon as the special election results are certified, and will remain until Jan. 3, 2025. The winner of the special election will thus serve for about 6 weeks, from mid-November 2024 until Jan. 3, 2025. It is virtually certain that Schiff, Porter, and Lee will all file to run in the special election. Most likely the same person will win both the special election on Nov. 5, 2024 (for the 6-week term) and the regular election on Nov. 5, 2024 (for the 6-year term). The extra 6 weeks will give the winner more seniority than any senators who are seated on Jan. 3, 2025 (for example, the winner of the open seat race in Michigan).

But a quirk in the election law has fundraising implications. The special election is seen as a separate election unrelated to the regular election. That means that there will be, in effect, four U.S. Senate elections in California next year: regular primary and special primary (on the same day) and regular general and special general (also on the same day). That means donors who gave any of the candidates $3,300 for the regular primary and $3,300 for the regular general election are free to donate another $3,300 for the special election primary and yet another $3,300 for the special general election. Schiff has almost 500 donors who are maxed out at $6,600 already. Porter has 47 maxed-out donors. They can now be hit up for another $6,600. If they all pony up, Schiff will take in another $3.2 million and Porter will take in another $310,000. That will further shift the financial balance toward Schiff.

Polling shows Schiff and Porter close. However, one thing to keep in mind is that 34% of Californians voted for Donald Trump in 2020. Yes, Virginia, there are Republicans in California. In fact, there are more Republicans in California than there are people in Virginia. And they get to vote in the general election. Most of them are likely to choose the lesser of two evils (Schiff or Porter). From their point of view, Schiff may be less bad than Porter because he is not quite as lefty as Porter (although he is no centrist by any means). Also, Republicans often prefer male candidates to female candidates. Of the 26 female senators at the moment, 15 are Democrats, 9 are Republicans, and 1 is an independent.

On the other hand, Schiff prosecuted Donald Trump in the first impeachment, and so is radioactive with the Trumpy set. Probably what happens is that the Trumpy Republicans, who surely aren't going to vote for a progressive woman, don't vote for either of them, while Never Trump Republicans break for the more centrist and male Schiff. (V)

Taylor, Travis, and Trump

Apparently Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are a thing at the moment. In case you don't know who Travis Kelce is, he is a football player for the Kansas City Chiefs. In case you didn't know who Taylor Swift is, well, that is actually impossible. They seem to like each other. We hope they will continue liking each other for a long time, but each one has a long track record of liking people and then not liking them.

Speaking of not liking people, neither one likes Donald Trump. At all. And each of them has a massive fan base. Kelce has 5 million followers on Twitter (X). But that is small potatoes compared to Swift's 450 million followers. Their fans span all age groups, but both, and especially Swift, have a lot of young fans.

What would (will?) happen if they decide to get political? When Swift put out one story on Instagram last week urging her fans to vote, registered a jump in traffic of over 1,200% in the next hour. When she went to a Kansas City Chiefs game, thus de facto confirming the rumored relationship, sales of his merchandise jumped 400%. Suppose both of them now regularly urge all their fans to register to vote and when early voting starts, urge them to vote now. What if Swift writes a song about democracy or voting and it becomes a hit? Even if they sort of stay neutral and don't tell their fans that they think Donald Trump is a piece of toxic garbage, the majority of young people are Democrats, so just by boosting turnout, Swift and Kelce are de facto helping the Democrats.

Also a factor is that Swift is a big supporter of empowering women. For example, about reproductive freedom. Almost certainly, millions of her fans care about the subject. If she decides she wants to get seriously involved (for example, appearing in ads about reproductive freedom), she could get a lot of young women to the polls and probably not so many of them would vote for Republicans in general or Donald Trump in particular. Kelce, for his part, might cause a different fanbase to take note of what Swift is saying. It's worth noting that he's certainly willing to speak up on touchy issues; he is currently starring in a public service ad about the importance of getting an updated COVID vaccination.

It will be interesting to see what happens if this power couple really decides to use its power. (V)

The Supreme Court Is Open for Business: Cases to Watch

The Supreme Court is back in town and conservatives can't wait for all the goodies they expect the Court will give them this term. There aren't any cases as big as Roe this term in the sense that they may determine who is elected president and which party will control Congress, but they are still pretty big. Here are three of the biggest ones:

  • Federal regulations: For many decades, conservatives have wanted to repeal the New Deal. They never have liked the idea that Congress created many independent agencies and told them to regulate some area of the economy. In all there are between 200 and 400 agencies, depending on what you are counting exactly. Some of the better-known ones include ATF, CFPB, EEOC, EPA, FCC, FDA, FDIC, FED, FTC, NLRB, OSHA, and SEC. In nearly all cases, the agencies have the power to order companies to do something they don't want to do. For example, the CFPB can tell banks they can't mislead their customers. OSHA can tell companies that they have to take measures to protect the health of their workers, even if that costs them money. The list is nearly endless. Conservatives would like to wave a magic wand and make most of them go poof! and vanish.

    Tomorrow they will get a shot at it. A group of payday lenders, a group that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has targeted for deceptive practices for years, brought a suit stating that the funding mechanism for the CFPB is unconstitutional. If the Court finds for the payday lenders, then the bureau will lose all its funding and cease to exist. The CFPB is funded from the Federal Reserve. The director of the CFPB tells the Fed how much money it needs next year and then the Fed provides it. The plaintiffs are claiming that the Constitution allows only one funding mechanism: an annual appropriations bill passed by Congress. If the Court decides in favor of the plaintiffs, many federal agencies that are funded in some other way will basically cease to exist. This will be a huge blow to consumers and others who are protected by the agencies and a windfall for malevolent actors who don't want to be regulated. The CFPB will argue that Congress created the funding mechanism by law and Congress has the authority to create any funding mechanism it wants to. We all know how Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas will vote, and how the three liberals will vote, so it's going to come down to the other four justices.

  • Second Amendment: Federal law bans people under a restraining order from owning a gun. Second Amendment fans want this law to be thrown out. The case this term involves a man, Zackey Rahimi, who assaulted his girlfriend and threatened to shoot her. A court granted her a restraining order against him, meaning that he could no longer lawfully own a gun. He kept two guns anyway. In unrelated cases, he was suspected of shooting people. Police got a warrant to search his house and found the two guns. He was then charged with violating the law prohibiting people under restraining orders from owning guns. He is claiming the Second Amendment doesn't mention any exceptions so the law is unconstitutional.

    He was convicted and on appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the law was constitutional. Then last summer, the Supreme Court struck down New York State's gun-control laws because they weren't old enough. Rahimi asked the Fifth Circuit to try again and this time they found the law against banning gun ownership to prevent domestic violence to be unconstitutional because laws dealing with domestic violence don't go back 200 years. Obviously the Supreme Court ruling is hugely ambiguous. How old does a law have to be? Is 150 years enough? 125? If 125 is enough, does that mean that a law passed 124 years ago is thus unconstitutional? With the New York decision, the Court opened a giant can of worms. This term it is going to start dealing with the consequences.

  • Social media: Some parents in San Diego didn't like what one of the local school boards was doing. They accused the board of racism and financial impropriety. One of them posted 126 identical replies on Twitter within 10 minutes. The board members got tired of this and eventually blocked the parents. The parents sued. It is pretty clear that citizens have a constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. That means government officials can't say: "Stop talking. I don't even want to hear what you have to say." The Ninth Circuit Court agreed that blocking the parents violated their constitutional rights.

    The question before the Supreme Court is when is an official's Facebook page or Twitter account part of his or her official business. After all, there are other ways aggrieved parents can communicate with a school board. They can send e-mail, write letters, or show up at school board meetings.

    There is also a related case in Michigan in which the city manager of Port Huron didn't have an official city page. But he did post items about city management to his personal page, along with photos of his family. A resident of the city didn't like the city's COVID restrictions and was not shy about announcing this. The city manager blocked him. The appeals court said the block was allowed. Now the Supreme Court gets to weigh in.

These are only three of the upcoming cases. A few other "interesting" ones are working their way through the courts and will certainly end up on the Supreme Court's docket before long. For example, may states ban parents from getting gender-affirming care for their children? This goes against the trend of giving parents more rights, rather than fewer. If the parents and child want to do this, does the state have a valid interest in saying they can't do it? There are many decisions parents make that have long-term effects on their children. For example, to home school them. Where do parents' rights end? A case involving a ban on mifepristone is also sure to be back before long. And surely the Supreme Court will get involved in some case soon involving the National Association of Pronoun Users. Will the Modern Language Association file an amicus brief? On which side? Harry Truman was wrong. The buck stops somewhere else. (V)

Trump Is on Trial Today

Boy do we have a lot of action today. The House is in turmoil, SCOTUS is back on the job, and to top it off, Donald Trump goes on trial today. A trial that will be decided by a judge (not a jury) and the judge in question, Arthur Engoron, has already officially ruled that Trump's company repeatedly committed fraud year after year. Not exactly a Trump-friendly judge. Trump will have to wait until May or later to get a case with a Trump-friendly judge, Aileen Cannon, and in that case, it will be a jury, not the judge, that makes the final call.

There are rumors that Trump will show up in Engoron's courtroom today. Then he will be sitting just a few feet from a judge he has called "deranged, unhinged, and a political hack." At debates, Trump just talks over the other candidates. We are going to go out on a limb here and predict that if Trump tries to shout at Engoron when he is talking, the judge will not cower and whimper "I'm sorry, Mr. President. I will be more careful from now on."

Among other things, the trial will focus on the penalties that will be imposed on Trump for his pattern of fraud. ew York AG Letitia James is seeking a fine of $250 million, but the judge could make that $10 million or $1 billion at his discretion, although that decision is sure to be appealed. The judge could also ban Trump from ever being an officer or director of any company in New York and force him to sell all his New York properties within some (short) period of time. Or the judge could skip that step and appoint a receiver to sell the properties without Trump being able to stop it.

Justice Engoron graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in English literature, then got a J.D. from NYU. He has had an eclectic career. He has driven a taxi cab and played in a band. Years ago, he also protested the Vietnam War. He was elected to serve on the New York County Civil Court in 2003 and was reelected in 2012. He was appointed as an acting justice on the New York Supreme Court in 2013 and elected as a regular justice in 2015. So he has been a judge for 20 years. He once wrote a manual for the Small Claims Court. Now he is in the Big Claims Court. During his 15 minutes of fame, starting today, he will be the most famous judge in the country. Here is his photo.

Judge Arthur Engoron

When this trial is over, Trump can watch the trial of Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell on Oct. 23. He will probably be interested in whether they have flipped, and if not, what evidence the prosecution will use against them because they will use the same evidence against him.

Then, on Jan. 15, the second defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll will begin. He was found liable for defaming her once and then kept doing it. On March 4, Jack Smith gets a shot at him in the conspiracy cases. Alvin Bragg's case about the hush-money payments is scheduled for March 25, but will probably be delayed. Then on May 20 we get the Mar-a-Lago documents case. In between all the cases, Trump can campaign if he likes. Offhand, we can't remember any presidential candidate who was on trial in half a dozen places for half a dozen reasons in half a dozen months, but maybe we've missed a couple. We'll check on it; after all, that bastard Millard Fillmore was a real ne'er-do-well. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct01 Crisis Averted... for Now
Oct01 Sunday Mailbag
Sep30 Saturday Q&A
Sep29 Dianne Feinstein Has Passed Away
Sep29 Republicans in The House, Part I: A Hard Day's Night
Sep29 Republicans in The House, Part II: You Fool No One
Sep29 Meanwhile, Over in the Senate: You Got The Look
Sep29 Trump Legal News: Moby Dick
Sep29 The Day After the Debate: A Little Less Conversation
Sep29 Another GOP Presidential Candidate?: I Heard It through the Grapevine
Sep29 My Gift Is My Song: Don't Fear the Reaper
Sep29 This Week in Schadenfreude: Got to Give It Up
Sep29 This Week in Freudenfreude: Hold Your Head Up
Sep28 Donald Ducks Daffy Debate
Sep28 Debate Takeaways
Sep28 Trump Triangulates
Sep28 Trump Legal News: No-no, no, no, no-no-no, no, no-no, Na-no, no, na-no, no-no
Sep28 T-minus-2 Days and Counting
Sep27 Cory Booker Is Calling for Menendez to Resign
Sep27 Biden Pickets the Car Companies
Sep27 Tonight Is the Second Republican Debate
Sep27 Senate Is Moving Close to a Continuing Resolution
Sep27 Shutdowns Have a Long and Not Glorious History
Sep27 Big Republican Donors Are Stuck
Sep27 But Trump's Base Is Not Stuck
Sep27 Judge Rules Trump Defrauded Banks and Insurance Companies
Sep27 Government Files an Antitrust Suit against Amazon
Sep27 Chutkan Demonstrates Her Stuff
Sep27 Hunter Biden's Laptop Is Back in the News
Sep27 Supreme Court Rejects Alabama's Appeal
Sep27 New Hampshire Also Has House Races
Sep27 FCC Reinstates Net Neutrality
Sep26 Today's Corruption News, Part I: Bob Menendez
Sep26 Today's Corruption News, Part II: Clarence Thomas
Sep26 Newsom-DeSantis Tilt Looks to Be Locked and Loaded
Sep26 Today's Bad Poll: Trump Up 10 on Biden?
Sep26 Today's Strange Conspiracy Theory: Obama for President?
Sep26 What Is Wrong With These People?, Part I: Corey Lewandowski
Sep26 What Is Wrong With These People?, Part II: Paul Gosar
Sep25 The Menendez Story Continues
Sep25 Less Than a Week Until the Coach Turns into a Pumpkin
Sep25 Democrats Are Running on Abortion Everywhere--Even in Kentucky
Sep25 DeSantis' Campaign Actually Achieved Something--It Made Him a Lame Duck in Florida
Sep25 Democrats Are Doing Well in Special Elections
Sep25 Donald Trump and the Seven Dwarfs
Sep25 How Do You Flip People Who Have Been Brainwashed?
Sep25 Jim Jordan Is Now Going after Disinformation Researchers
Sep25 Trump v2.0
Sep24 Sunday Mailbag
Sep23 I Am Not a Crook. Rinse and Repeat