A group of Democratic senators is asking for more answers after the Federal Bureau of Investigation shared details on its handling of a supplemental background investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee.
Jill Tyson, assistant director of the FBI, said in a letter on June 30 that the agency had received 4,500 tips regarding Kavanaugh and that it turned over “relevant tips” to the White House Counsel, which would have been Don McGahn at the time in 2018. Tyson also said only ten individuals were interviewed, despite thousands of tips.
Tyson’s letter was made public Thursday by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons, who said it was a response to a letter they sent in August 2019 asking for answers about the investigation.
“This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing,” Whitehouse said on Twitter Thursday, taking aim at FBI Director Chris Wray. He said it “confirms my suspicions that the ‘tip line’ was not real and that FBI tip line procedures were not followed.”
“Wray said they followed procedures, he meant the ‘procedure’ of doing whatever Trump White House Counsel told them to do. That’s misleading as hell,” he added.
A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment when reached by Insider. An email sent to the Supreme Court seeking comment on behalf of Kavanaugh did not receive a response.
According to the FBI’s letter, the FBI passed the tips to the White House because that was the entity that requested the supplemental background check on September 13, 2018. The request was prompted by sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh that surfaced around that time. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Tyson said the FBI had already conducted an initial background check that was completed in July 2018 and included interviews with 49 people.
Whitehouse and Coons were joined by Sens. Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, and Cory Booker in requesting more answers from the FBI.
“If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all,” they wrote, saying the agency’s letter confirmed “the FBI was politically constrained by the Trump White House.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court signed the death certificate for voting rights. In a 6-3 decision along ideological lines, the Court decided that Arizona could implement restrictions that hamper the ability of Black and brown voters to cast their ballot.
In essence, more than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act became law, the federal protections against racially discriminatory voting policies have been stripped away. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court has given new energy to right wing states that want to keep minority voters away from the polls.
Democrats have the Supreme Court and red states against them. So their only choice left is to go local – and out-organize anyone standing in their way.
The big lie on steroids
While Republican-controlled states have passed onerous voting laws for years, the recent spate of voter suppression tactics all stem from former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie.” The fact that President Joe Biden won the reliably Republican states of Georgia and Arizona sent a shockwave through the GOP. We all know, and perhaps expected, Trump to falsely claim that there was voter “fraud” after his 2020 loss. But now Republicans are falling all over themselves to please the former President by enacting laws to prevent these nonexistent “irregularities” from happening again.
Arizona, where the Supreme Court case originated, prevents friends and neighbors from helping someone turn in absentee ballots. It also allows the state to disqualify voters who accidentally vote in the wrong precinct. Republicans claim they are trying to prevent fraud, but the actual intention is clear when you recognize that local GOP officials routinely shift voting locations in minority neighborhoods – making it easier for these voters to accidentally run afoul of the new law.
These laws aren’t just in swing states, either. States like Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma have all passed laws making it harder to vote by mail, on top of many other voting restrictions. This is an epidemic, and Democrats must use every means at their disposal to fight back before it’s too late.
Filibustering the filibuster
The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats’ most effective response to voter suppression is to pass a new federal voter protection law. Indeed, some of the very first bills put forth in the US House and Senate this year were to protect voting rights, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The bills have not seen much success because of Republican intransigence.
The most common solution to move past the GOP is changing the filibuster, which prevents any bill from moving forward in the Senate unless it has 60 supporters. Given the 50-50 split in the chamber, this effectively gives the Republican minority veto power over almost every bill brought to the Senate floor.
After the Supreme Court decision, Democrats are calling again for an end to the filibuster so that the voting rights law can pass. But that ship has sailed. The Democrats in the ideological center of the Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have not moved on changing the filibuster. And with their stubbornness on the filibuster goes any chance of a new federal voting law.
Democrats across the country need to stop hoping that Congress or the courts will fix this problem. They won’t. Democrats need to take charge themselves.
Voter suppression boomerang
While efforts may be stymied at the federal level, Democrats do have a chance to harness the energy and outrage around voter suppression to increase voter turnout at the state and local level.
In Arizona, where casting a ballot in the wrong place can lead to disqualification, voter education campaigns are essential. The GOP technique only works to suppress the vote when voters don’t know their polling location. With solid organizing, Democrats can ensure every single voter knows where to cast their ballot.
In Georgia, ground zero for many false claims of election fraud, Democrats have already shown what it takes to fight back. Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight has been on the front lines of combating voter suppression. As a result, Georgia Democrats helped flip the White House and Senate in 2020. If Democrats are serious about combating voter suppression, they should set up a Fair Fight in every single state.
Perhaps the single largest step that Democrats can take to fight suppression and increase turnout is to invest in year-round organizing. In too many places, young Democratic staffers parachute in for one campaign cycle and then leave, forgoing the ability to forge the deep connections it takes to win over and help voters.
For the time being, Democrats can’t do anything about the Supreme Court. But the right to vote is precious, and we can use the threat of these new laws to inspire people to hold onto what’s theirs and fight back against Republican attempts to subvert democracy.
Classic movies “ET” and “Tootsie.” Staple 80s hit songs “Come On, Eileen,” “Eye of the Tiger,” and “I Love Rock and Roll.” These are all things from 1982, the year that the Supreme Court majority said that courts should take into account when weighing whether voting restrictions violate the Voting Rights Act.
One of the new guideposts for courts to consider is how much a given election law “departs from what was standard practice” when Congress last amended Section 2 in 1982.
Because every voting law imposes some burden, the Court reasoned, “the burdens associated with the rules in widespread use when [Section 2] was adopted are therefore useful in gauging whether the burdens imposed by a challenged rule are sufficient to prevent voting from being equally ‘open’ or furnishing an equal ‘opportunity’ to vote in the sense meant by [Section 2].”
This new condition came somewhat out of left-field, and puzzled legal experts. In 1982, very few states offered voting options commonplace today, including no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, or automatic and same-day registration.
In her scathing dissent, Justice Elena Kagan called the new 1982 standard “the oddest part” of the majority opinion, writing, “Section 2 was meant to disrupt the status quo, not to preserve it-to eradicate then-current discriminatory practices, not to set them in amber.”
Harvard Law professor Nick Stephanopoulos, writing in the Washington Post, called it the “most astonishing extra-textual move” in the entire decision, wondering, “Why on earth would that be?”
Here are 11 things from 1982 to put the amount of time that’s passed since then – and how different the world is – in perspective:
Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller.”
The Survivor hit “Eye of the Tiger.”
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge
The sitcom “Cheers.”
The first episode of “Late Night” with David Letterman.
“ET: The Extraterrestrial.”
“The Princess Diaries” and “The Devil Wears Prada” actress Anne Hathaway.
Singers Kelly Clarkson and LeAnn Rimes, actresses Jessica Biel and Kirsten Dunst, and Olympic athletes Tara Lipinski and Apolo Anthon Ono were also born in 1982.
The Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
The teen comedy film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania on Saturday blasted the Republican Party for endorsing restrictive voting bills across the country, describing the push for such legislation as forms of “white supremacy.”
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Velshi,” the moderate lawmaker issued a dire warning about the state of elections in the US, just days after the Supreme Court upheld two restrictive voting laws in Arizona that had been challenged for violating Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Casey expressed that the Senate would likely have to alter its rules to move voting rights legislation through the chamber with 51 votes.
“We’re at a point of no return,” he said. “We’re either going to preserve our democracy, and thereby protect voter rights to preserve the democracy, or we’re not. Democrats have to stand up and get something done. I think we can do that, because it’s apparent to me that Republicans are just going to endorse these voter suppression bills.”
He added: “At its core, we should just be blunt about this, these voter suppression bills are about white supremacy.”
Casey said Republicans seemed to be working as “a one-or two-issue agenda party where they seem to be only interested in stopping [President] Joe Biden’s programs, especially on these caregiving issues and supporting voter suppression bills.”
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 6-3 to keep in place Arizona laws that toss provisional ballots filed at the wrong voting precinct and prevent third-party groups from returning mail ballots.
The former Arizona law was previously struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in January, with the judge ruling that it disproportionately affected Black, Latino and Indigenous voters.
Last week, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP-backed voting overhaul bill that would have changed election deadlines and strengthened voter identification requirements, among other measures.
During the MSNBC interview, Casey said that Republicans would continue to push similar pieces of legislation.
‘This is agenda item number one for the Republican Party,” he said. “This is going to be the norm, because Republicans have concluded that they can’t win by getting more votes. They can only win by voter suppression bills.”
Democrats have seen their legislative push for voting rights languish in recent months.
The For the People Act, the party’s marquee voting rights legislation, would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and blunt voter purges, among other things.
The bill would also mandate that states offer mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, which Republicans have long resisted in many states.
However, late last month, an attempt to advance the legislation failed in the Senate, with all Republicans opposed to the bill.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, an elections bill which would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder, also faces a difficult path forward, with GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky opposed to the legislation.
Donald Trump mocked “woke” military generals and critical race theory on Saturday as he addressed thousands of supporters at this first post-White House rally in Wellington, Ohio.
The former president accused the country’s “weak and ineffective” military of becoming more concerned about being politically correct than they are about “fighting their enemies,” the Telegraph reported.
“The Biden administration issued new rules pushing twisted critical race theory … into our military,” Trump said, according to the Telegraph. “Our generals and our admirals are now focused more on this nonsense than they are on our enemies.”
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military … of being ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there,” Miley told the House armed service committee on Thursday, according to the Guardian. During the remarks, was joined by the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin.
ON MONDAY, the US Supreme Court ruled against the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the Alston vs. NCAA case about limitations on compensation for student-athletes.
In an opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling, saying the NCAA can no longer ban colleges from providing student-athletes with education-related benefits.
“By permitting colleges and universities to offer enhanced education-related benefits, its decision may encourage scholastic achievement and allow student-athletes a measure of compensation more consistent with the value they bring to their schools,” the decision read. “The national debate about amateurism in college sports is important. But our task as appellate judges is not to resolve it. Nor could we. Our task is simply to review the district court judgment through the appropriate lens of antitrust law.”
The benefits include computers, paid internships, tutoring, study abroad programs, musical instruments, etc.
The case was led by former West Virginia University football player Shawne Alston and former University of California women’s basketball player Justine Hartman.
The court found the limits violated “anti-trust principles,” with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing in a concurring opinion that the NCAA’s business model would be “flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
The case was brought by former Division I men’s and women’s college athletes, who had accused the NCAA of violating anti-trust laws through its eligibility rules regarding compensation for student-athletes.
The NCAA previously had a $5,000 cap on what schools could provide above and beyond free tuition, room, and board, but now all schools can and likely offer more educational resources to their athletes.
One of the most significant education-related benefits that lawmakers and activists, including senator Cory Booker and ESPN college sports analyst Rod Gilmore, have been pushing for is unlimited tuition money for student-athletes that extends past their athletic eligibility.
Previous NCAA policy forbade universities from offering further scholarships to college athletes once their eligibility to play a sport ended, which resulted in lower graduation rates among athletes than the average student body at most universities.
The Supreme Court’s decision now opens the door for other anti-trust lawsuits that former and current athletes may choose to file against the NCAA for capping their education-related benefits. That would also include paying student-athletes.
Black college football players, in particular, could have the makings for a class-action lawsuit, as graduation rates among that group have steadily declined to record-low numbers over the past three years, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.
The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday in favor of a Catholic child welfare organization, saying the charity has a right to decline to place foster children with same-sex couples.
Catholic Social Services sued the City of Philadelphia after it informed private agencies that provided foster care services that it would not refer children to the agencies unless they agreed to nondiscrimination requirements.
Catholic Social Services argued that it had the right to opt-out of the nondiscrimination requirement, citing the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Philadelphia cannot force the charity to work with same-sex couples, saying the rule violated their First Amendment rights.
The case marks a major win for religious groups in a case that pitted religious freedom against the rights of LGBTQ citizens.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
An unusual majority of the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act doesn’t cover cases in which a person accesses a computer system they are authorized to use.
Former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees – Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett – joined liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan to impose limits on the landmark cybercrime law.
The case, Nathan Van Buren v. United States, involved a former Georgia police officer who was accused of looking up a license plate number in the state’s database in exchange for money. The court found that though Van Buren accessed the system for improper reasons, he was authorized to use the computer database.
Civil liberties groups had argued that widening the scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could criminalize mundane things, like checking social media at work, according to Politico.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.
The US Supreme Court sent three climate change cases filed against oil and gas companies back to lower courts on Monday.
In an opinion shared by SCOTUS Blog, the Supreme Court asked lower courts to reconsider the cases in the wake of its decision on BP PLC v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.
Last week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of BP and other oil and gas companies in a lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore that sought monetary damages for the cost global climate change, Reuters reported.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.