alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.


Amy Coney Barrett ‘lied’ to Democratic senator over ties to anti-LGBTQ hate group: political scientist

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is being accused of lying to a top Democratic Senator in an apparent attempt to hide her ties to and awareness of an anti-LGBTQ hate group that advocates for the re-criminalization of homosexuality and sterilization of transgender people.

Judge Barrett has been paid by and given speeches to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups. ADF advances its agenda by finding and litigating cases involving Christians who say they are being discriminated against for their faith by LGBTQ people, often same-sex couples.

"The head of the Alliance Defending Freedom attended the announcement of Amy Coney Barrett's #SCOTUS nomination in the Rose Garden," former US Senator Al Franken tweeted Wednesday.

He posted a devastating video (below) of him questioning Barrett in her 2017 judicial confirmation hearing. The video then cuts to this week's confirmation hearing, with Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) asking her about the Alliance Defending Freedom.

"Were you aware of ADF's decades-long efforts to re-criminalize homosexuality?" Leahy asked Barrett on Tuesday.

"I am not aware of those efforts, no," Barrett firmly responded.

Amy Coney Barrett Lying About Her Knowledge of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)

Franken adds, "I questioned her about this in 2017. She spoke to them 5 times, took money from them, and is very, very, very aware of what they do."

Norman Orenstein, a top political scientist and a resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), says Barrett "lied."

Judge initiates contempt proceedings against Trump’s commerce secretary for violating US Census order

Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce in the Trump Administration, recently ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to end its field operations for the 2020 U.S. Census on October 5. But U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, in San José, California, had issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Census count to continue until the end of October. And according to Bloomberg News reporter Joel Rosenblatt, Koh has "initiated contempt of court proceedings" against Ross for violating her injunction.

Rosenblatt reports that Koh "said, during a hearing Tuesday, that Monday's announcement that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is targeting October 5 to wrap up the once-a-decade population count 'is doing exactly' what she ordered the agency not to do last week. The judge said the proceeding could be identified by a more formal name but made clear she believes Ross violated the order."

According to Rosenblatt, "Ross' Monday announcement took Koh by surprise. It came days after she ordered Census data collection operations to continue through October 31 to get an accurate population count."

Axios Reporter Rebecca Falconer notes, "Koh's injunction suspended the Census Bureau's deadline for ending the once-in-a-decade count on September 30, reimposing an older Census Bureau proposal to end operations on Oct. 31."

Koh set a Friday, October 2 date for a hearing on possible contempt charges for Ross. The judge said, "You don't have to call it contempt. You can call it something else."

Democrats have been stressing that the 2020 U.S. Census count needs to be as thorough and as accurate as possible because it affects the number of seats that states will have in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Experts sound off after messy and chaotic Trump-Biden debate

Alison Gash, University of Oregon; Alexander Cohen, Clarkson University, and Rashawn Ray, University of Maryland

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took part in a presidential debate Sept. 29 that exemplified the lack of civility in American politics. The president frequently interrupted and spoke over his challenger, Biden told Trump to “shut up," and few issues were discussed in enough depth to provide much information to undecided voters. We asked three scholars to discuss themes brought up by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, who struggled throughout the debate to keep control.

The Supreme Court

Alison Gash, University of Oregon

Wallace opened with a question on the minds of many voters: Who should fill the vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death?

Democrats viewed Ginsburg as the last line of defense for abortion rights, voting rights, the Affordable Care Act and other traditionally liberal policies. Trump has nominated conservative jurist and scholar Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg's seat on the bench.

Trump has already exerted a significant influence over the federal bench. He has appointed more federal appellate judges than any president since Carter. If Barrett is appointed, he will have filled more Supreme Court vacancies than any president since Ronald Reagan and will have shaped the court in ways that could last generations.

Biden all but conceded the appointment as a lost cause, pivoting to one of the few areas where a Biden win could conceivably limit the conservative influence of the Roberts Court — by stalling potential litigation over the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration has publicly and actively supported litigation to overturn the ACA. Judge Barrett, Biden reminded viewers, believes the ACA is unconstitutional. Even with Ginsburg on the bench, the ACA enjoyed only fragile court support. Biden intimated that continued litigation in an even more conservative Supreme Court could limit health care coverage for millions of Americans.

Biden mentioned Roe v. Wade — and Barrett's likely opposition — only as an afterthought. In response, Trump stated cryptically, “There's nothing happening there. And you don't know her view on Roe v. Wade."

On the whole, the debate did little to resolve questions about the future of the court — other than to shore up Supreme Court nominations as political bombs with volatile consequences.

Racism, Policing and Black Lives Matter Protests

Rashawn Ray, University of Maryland

“Why should voters trust you … to deal with the race issue facing this country?"

Wallace asked a straightforward question about the troubling state of race relations in America, but the two candidates answered it in very different ways. Biden highlighted the “systemic injustice in this country, in education, in work, and in law enforcement" that required an approach grounded in equity, equality, decency and the Constitution.

Trump pivoted quickly to “law and order" and brought up the Biden co-sponsored 1994 Crime Bill – legislation that has long been criticized for contributing to the disproportionate mass incarceration of Black Americans. But recent Trump advertisements have tried to suggest that violence will increase under a Biden presidency – paradoxically showing images of unrest under the current Trump administration. Trump seemingly wanted to attack this “tough on crime" Biden of the 1990s while simultaneously portraying his rival as being in league with what the president would like voters to believe is an unruly and violent left.

The reality is different. Despite over 90% of Black Lives Matter protests being nonviolent, much of the media's focus has been on the less than 10% of demonstrations that have turned violent. This debate did nothing to dispel that false narrative.

In fact, some of the violence of recent months has been committed by right-wing extremists. But when asked directly to condemn white supremacy, Trump hesitated and seemed to be searching for words. Instead, he sent a shoutout to the Proud Boys – a group deemed to be a hate organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

“He's the racist," said Biden during their exchanges.

Meanwhile, on policing policy, Biden proposed a 21st-century redo to bring various stakeholders to the table.

But eerily for Republicans and Democrats – and not at all in keeping with the debate itself – Trump and Biden seem to espouse similar views about the defunding police movement.

“I am totally opposed to defunding the police. They need more assistance," said Biden during the debate. Earlier Trump had stated, “There won't be dismantling of our police, and there's not going to be any disbanding of our police."

The integrity of the election

Alexander Cohen, Clarkson University

When asked about the integrity of mail-in ballots, Biden and Trump offered different answers. Biden projected faith in the mail-in system. Unsurprisingly, Trump continued to assault the integrity of an election using mail-in ballots. This echoes his mantra in 2016, when he argued that the popular vote count was incorrect and fraudulent – a notion that was widely debunked.

Likewise, the assertion that mail-in voting leads to voter fraud has been widely challenged. Most studies suggest that voting by mail does not benefit one party over the other and that voting by mail is not prone to manipulation.

However, such studies on voting by mail tend to examine scenarios where state and local governments were well prepared for ballot distribution. The increased demand for mail-in voting brought on by COVID-19 is creating at least some confusion among voters. It is plausible that not all states are ready to handle the flood of mail-in votes. This could complicate the voting process and prolong vote counts in some states.

Such delays could be incredibly significant. The last time a key state struggled to tally votes was 2000. Then, the Supreme Court intervened to halt a recount in Florida, handing the victory to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore in a close presidential race.

If disputes over mail-in ballots linger beyond Election Day, the Supreme Court may again intervene. If President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is quickly confirmed, conservatives will enjoy a 6-3 majority on the Court. Three of these justices will have been appointed by Trump.

Trump has laid the groundwork for disputing the results of any close election. If neither candidate wins decisively, the nation should brace itself for a lengthy, and divisive, struggle.

Such a struggle could be dangerous to American democracy because it may undermine fundamental faith in the electoral process. While rule of law generally prevails when close elections are disputed, it does appear that the United States could be headed toward uncharted territory.

What question were you hoping to hear tonight that was left out in the midst of this chaotic debate?

Cohen: I would have liked to ask: “Do you think that there are consequences for the decreasing civility in American politics, as demonstrated in this debate?"

Gash: I would like to have seen a question about the role of the court in preserving checks and balances. This is, what I think, Wallace was trying to get at in his question about court-packing. But the question fell flat.

Ray: Black people are disproportionately more likely to experience police use of force, even when they are unarmed and not attacking. How do we reduce racial disparities in use of force – as with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – and improve relations between Black communities and law enforcement?The Conversation

Alison Gash, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Oregon; Alexander Cohen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Clarkson University, and Rashawn Ray, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

'Desperate' Trump blasted for calling on supporters to engage in voter intimidation

Among the stream of authoritarian remarks President Donald Trump let loose during his disastrous performance at Tuesday night's presidential debate, one of the most alarming to voting rights advocates came at the tail-end of the 90-minute event, when the incumbent openly encouraged his supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully."

Though poll watching is authorized in states across the U.S., the activity is restricted by specific rules and guidelines aimed at preventing a candidate's backers from showing up at polling places and intimidating voters attempting to cast their ballots. The president's comments Tuesday night, observers warned, went well beyond a call for legally sanctioned and qualified election observers.

"He wasn't talking about poll watching. He was talking about voter intimidation," tweeted Nevada's Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford. "FYI—voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say it: You do it, and you will be prosecuted."

Asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace whether he would pledge to "not declare victory until the election has been independently certified," Trump ignored the question and repeated a lie he first spread on social media ahead of Tuesday night's event.

"As you know, today there was a big problem," the president said. "In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They're called poll watchers, a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren't allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things. And I am urging my people—I hope it's going to be a fair election."

But as the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out, "there were several reasons why elections staff did not allow members of the public to arbitrarily enter their offices."

"The Trump campaign has no poll watchers approved to work in Philadelphia at the moment," the Inquirer noted. "There are no actual polling places open in the city right now. And elections officials are following coronavirus safety regulations, such as those limiting the number of people indoors."

"Trump is brazenly demanding voter intimidation from his supporters," tweeted Sean Eldridge, founder and president of advocacy group Stand Up America.

In a joint statement following the debate, during which the president also repeated a number of falsehoods about mail-in voting, Eldridge and Indivisible co-executive director Leah Greenberg said that "the confusion and doubt that Donald Trump tried to sow about the election tonight is the behavior of a desperate man and a losing candidate."

"We are building a broad network of people who are working to make sure every vote is counted and preparing to mobilize if Trump attempts to undermine the valid results. The voters will have the last word," said Eldridge and Greenberg. "While we work to resoundingly defeat Donald Trump in this election, preparing to also protect the results of this election isn't just reasonable, it's necessary."

The Inquirer reported that on Tuesday afternoon, as early voting began in Pennsylvania, "a woman approached the supervisor at the entrance of the satellite office at Overbrook Elementary School" claiming that "she was there to monitor 'the integrity of the election'" and asking to be allowed inside the building.

"The woman did not present any sort of certificate of being an official poll watcher, but calmly stated that she had a right to be inside," according to the outlet. "The woman told the Inquirer she was 'hired by the Trump campaign to oversee the integrity of the election.' She said she was paid to monitor the West Philadelphia site. She would not provide her name or any further information, and she left the area shortly afterward."

In a video posted online last week, Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, called on Trump supporters to "enlist" in the campaign's "election security operation" and falsely claimed that the president's opponents "plan to add millions of fraudulent ballots that can cancel your vote and overturn the election."

On the second day of early voting in Virginia on September 19, Trump supporters heeded the campaign's repeated calls to show up at polling places en masse, offering a potential preview of the chaos the president is attempting to provoke across the country. As the New York Times reported, a crowd of Trump supporters gathered near a polling location in Fairfax and formed "a line that voters had to walk around outside the site."

"County election officials eventually were forced to open up a larger portion of the Fairfax County Government Center to allow voters to wait inside away from the Trump enthusiasts," the Times noted.

Bryan Graham, the chairman of the Fairfax County Democrats, tweeted at the time that "Republicans are straight-up attempting to intimidate voters at the Government Center. Circling the parking lots with their Trump flags and horns blaring."

Mike Flynn’s lawyer just admitted to a federal judge she’s discussed his case with Trump

The attorney for disgraced former Trump national security adviser and convicted felon Mike Flynn has just admitted to a federal judge she has been talking with President Donald Trump about her client's case – and that she personally asked the president to not pardon Flynn.

Sydney Powell, a former federal prosecutor turned conspiracy theorist, QAnon-signaler, and pro-MAGA anti-"deep state" personality, was asked by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, if she's been in contact with Trump.

Politico's Kyle Cheney provides the back-and-forth:

Powell actually tries to invoke executive privilege – to which she has no right since she does not work for the administration.

And then, this bombshell:

Former federal prosecutor, now an NBC and MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner sugggests things got a little wild in the courtroom:

At issue: Flynn and the DOJ are trying to have the case dismissed – after Flynn pleaded guilty, twice, before the judge. Attorney General Bill Barr has been accused of working to protect Trump's allies.

Trump mocked for finally releasing ‘health care plan’ — which is really a ‘toothless’ executive order

For at least four years President Donald Trump has been promising the American people a health care plan. He famously sat for the “60 Minutes” cameras just days after the 2016 election and said, “this is what I do I do a good job I mean I know how to do this stuff.”

Keep reading... Show less

Judge tosses defamation suit against Tucker Carlson: 'Any reasonable viewer' would not trust him for news

Back in 2016, Donald Trump participated in a conspiracy with his former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen and David Pecker (then-publisher of the National Enquirer) to silence women who were coming forward with stories of sexual affairs with Trump. One of the women that was paid off was former Playboy model Karen McDougal. According to reports, Pecker used hush money from Trump, funneled through Cohen, in order to buy McDougal’s story (as well as Stormy Daniels’), and then bury the stories after having the women sign a non-disclosure agreement. You know, dirtbag stuff.

Keep reading... Show less

Republicans tried to smear Biden — but instead 'succeeded in implicating former Secretary Perry in a corrupt scheme'

The Republican report aimed at raising questions about the dealings of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine appears to have accidentally implicated former Energy Secretary Rick Perry in an energy scheme in the foreign nation, according to the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Keep reading... Show less

Matt Gaetz accuses GOP’s Kelly Loeffler of bribing Trump with $50 million to push out her opponent

On Thursday, The Daily Beast reported that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is accusing Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) of offering President Donald Trump money for his re-election in return for helping her push opponent Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) out of the race.

Keep reading... Show less

Two places President Trump doesn’t belong: The White House and my uterus

So far this year, there have been race riots, a global pandemic, the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression, the President was impeached, and World War III almost started. To make matters worse, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg lost her battle with cancer on Friday, September 18th. Justice Ginsburg’s passing deserves every recognition, her legacy every praise—however, it is imperative that the fight for gender and social equality not lose momentum. With so many societal problems in need of urgent attention, why are elected officials devoting scarce resources in an attempt to curtail the rights of women?

Keep reading... Show less

Trump already 'laid out the roadmap' to cheat in the upcoming election: analyst

John Heilemann, the national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, explained how President Donald Trump has already laid out his "roadmap" to cheat in plain sight for the upcoming presidential election.

Keep reading... Show less