Connect with us

Politics

House Votes to Condemn Trump’s Tweets to Congresswomen

Published

on

  • The House voted 240 to 187 in favor of a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets that targeted several Democratic Congresswomen as racist.
  • Despite the fact that the resolution is only symbolic, many have said the move is significant because it is very uncommon for the House to rebuke a sitting president, with the last instance happening more than 100 years ago.
  • The debate on the resolution got heated after Nancy Pelosi was barred from speaking following a statement she made on the floor where she called Trump’s tweets racist.
  • Trump defended himself on Twitter arguing that he was not racist, and that the Congresswomen in question should be condemned, not him. Other Republicans also made the same argument during the floor debate.

House Votes to Condemn Trump

The House of Representatives approved a resolution Tuesday condemning a series of tweets by President Donald Trump as “racist comments directed at Members of Congress.”

On Sunday, President Trump said on Twitter that “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” who came from other countries should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The president’s tweets sparked a significant amount of backlash, largely because they seemed to be about a group of freshman representatives who are known as “The Squad.” The group consists of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).

All of those representatives are women of color who were born in the U.S., with the exception of Omar, who was a Somali war refugee as a child and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

On Tuesday night, the House voted in favor of a resolution that “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”

The resolution was passed 240 to 187, mostly along party lines. Four Republicans and Independent Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), who recently left the Republican Party, voted in favor of it.

The measure is a non-binding resolution, which means that there is no policy action or law connected to it. Even though the resolution is entirely symbolic, it still is significant because condemning a sitting president is just something the House does not do.

According to the New York Times, it was “the first House rebuke of a president in more than 100 years.”

Drama on the Floor

Making the decision to condemn the president was nowhere near unanimous.

Many members felt strongly about their support or opposition of the resolution, and what resulted was an incredibly polarizing floor debate. One of the most contentious and unusual things that happened during the debate came after a statement from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting, and those comments are racist,” Pelosi said, speaking from the floor. “There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong, unified condemnation.”

“Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” she continued. “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.” 

Immediately after that statement, Republican Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) asked Pelosi if she wanted to “rephrase that comment.” Pelosi responded that she had cleared her remarks in advance.

Collins went on to ask that Pelosi’s statements be removed from the record because they violated a rule outlined in an 1801 text by Thomas Jefferson. That text, known as the Jefferson Manual, sets the rules and precedents for House procedures on the floor.

Under a long-standing precedent set by that text, Congress members can not make disparaging comments about the president. In other words, members of Congress cannot call the president– or even his words, racist while speaking on the floor.

After Collin’s motion, the members debated for a full hour if Pelosi’s words should be struck. That debate got so heated that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), who was presiding over the House, banged his gavel and walked out of the chamber in anger.

“We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that’s what this is,” he said. “We want to just fight. I abandon the chair.”

A little later, it was announced that the members decided that Pelosi’s comments were not in order, which meant she was banned from making comments for the rest of the day.

However, Democrats voted to overrule striking her remarks from the record, and Pelosi was allowed to speak again.

The whole ordeal took about two hours, but eventually the resolution was passed, and afterward, Pelosi defended her words.

“I stand by my statement,” Pelosi said, speaking to reporters in the Capitol. “I’m proud of the attention that’s being called to it because what the president said was completely inappropriate against our colleagues, but not just against them, against so many people in our country.”

Republicans Respond

President Trump took to Twitter to respond to the vote on Tuesday, and defended his previous remarks.

“Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” Trump said on Twitter. “This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country.”

After the vote, Trump took to Twitter again to praise House Republicans.

“So great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today’s vote concerning statements I made about four Democrat Congresswomen,” Trump said. “If you really want to see statements, look at the horrible things they said about our Country, Israel, and much more.”

Trump was not the only one who said that the House should condemn the things that the four Congresswomen have said in the past. A number of the Republicans who spoke on the floor Tuesday night made the same argument.

Other Republicans defended Trump’s tweets and said they are not racist, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Rep. Sean Duffy.

“In those tweets, I see nothing that references anybody’s race — not a thing — I don’t see anyone’s name being referenced in the tweets, but the president’s referring to people, congresswomen, who are anti-American,” Duffy said.

As for the Democrats, despite their divisions, they appeared to be unified in Tuesday’s vote. However, that unity could be short-lived. 

Right after the resolution was passed, Democratic Rep. Al Green (D-LA) reintroduced articles of impeachment against the president. 

“What do you do when the leader of the free world is a racist?” Green asked. “You file Articles of Impeachment, impeaching the president of the United States of America.”

If Green can force a debate, Democrats could see renewed divisions between the more liberal members of the party and the more moderate members who have consistently opposed impeachment.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (NBC News)

Politics

Florida Gov. DeSantis Temporarily Delayed From Voting After Someone Changed His Listed Address

Published

on

  • Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was delayed from voting on Monday after a man allegedly exploited a weakness in the State Department website, allowing him to change DeSantis’ home address. 
  • That man, Anthony Guevara, has now been arrested and charged with two felonies, including voter fraud. 
  • Meanwhile, state and election officials have reassured voters there is no need to worry about being unable to vote through similar attacks, as an address change will not prevent voters from casting their ballots. 

DeSantis’ Trouble Voting

Investigators in Florida have arrested and charged a man with voter fraud after alleging that he changed the listed address of Gov. Ron DeSantis on Florida’s Department of State website, a move that temporarily delayed DeSantis from casting his vote. 

DeSantis arrived at the Leon County Courthouse Monday afternoon around 2 p.m. to cast his vote, but he was soon stopped by a clerk who noticed an issue with his home address. Reportedly, it had somehow been changed from the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee to a random home in West Palm Beach.

Though the situation was also investigated as a possible technical glitch, the following day, investigators arrested a man in what they described as a much more malicious and intentional attack on DeSantis.

In now-unsealed court documents, investigators said DeSantis’ address had been changed illegally without his knowledge. Those investigators also charged the man they arrested, 20-year-old Anthony Guevara, with two third-degree felonies, including voter fraud.

According to investigators, Guevara admitted changing DeSantis’ address last week to that of an unnamed YouTube personality. He also allegedly accessed voter information on Senator Rick Scott, as well as basketball legends Lebron James and Michael Jordan. However, unlike DeSantis, Guevara didn’t change any of their records. It is unclear why Guevara, a registered Republican, changed DeSantis’ address.

How Guevara Allegedly Changed DeSantis’ Address

It turns out that changing someone’s address in some Florida counties is surprisingly easy. In fact, in Leon County, the only requirement needed is a person’s date of birth. 

For a public figure like DeSantis, that is incredibly easy to find. In fact, Guevara reportedly told investigators that he got the information by simply looking on DeSantis’ Wikipedia page

While Mark Earley, the election supervisor in Leon County, said the system has safeguards to prevent mass changes, he noted that it is designed to be deliberately convenient for address changes. In fact, Earley cited college students who tend to move frequently as a key reason why the system is so simple.

“What is abnormal is for that change to be done fraudulently,” Earley told the Tampa Bay Times.

“This is not a hard thing to do, but there are pretty severe penalties for doing this,” he added. 

Other counties in Florida require more information from voters wishing to change their listed address. For example, in Polk County, voters also need to provide their social security number, the number and issued date of their state driver’s license, and their date of birth. 

Will This Compromise Anyone’s Ability to Vote?

Election security is one of the biggest concerns at the forefront of the 2020 Elections, and before this news, tensions around voter fraud were already high.

Still, both state and election officials in Florida have reassured voters not to worry about being unable to cast a vote if their address doesn’t match. In fact, Earley has told media outlets that any fraudulent changes or outdated information quickly can be corrected at any polling place.

According to Earley, if a similar attack were to happen to another voter (or if a voter forgot to update their current address), they would still be able to vote. In such a situation, election staff would do a statewide search for the person’s voting record and would then verify that the person is able to vote. From there, those officials would pull the individual’s voter information into their county’s system. 

Both Earley and Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee have also stressed that the state’s systems are “secure,” noting that this was not an incidence of hacking the State Department’s website. 

“This incident was perpetrated using publicly accessible voter data, and there is no evidence to suggest that this change was made through the Florida Department of State,” Lee said. 

See what others are saying: (Tampa Bay Times) (Associated Press) (The Washington Post)

Continue Reading

Politics

Facebook Struggles With Roll Out of Election-Week Political Ad Ban

Published

on

  • Facebook announced in September that it would ban all new political ads the week before the election, but the company’s first day enforcing the policy was met with a number of issues. 
  • Both Republicans and Democrats reported having ads banned that were approved before the deadline, a factor that could be very harmful to small, local campaigns that rely on the platform to share their messages.
  • Meanwhile, a Trump campaign ad arbitrarily saying “Today is Election Day” and encouraging people to “vote TODAY!” — in violation of the platform’s rules — was allowed to run before Facebook removed it. 

Facebook Rolls Out Election-Week Policy

Facebook implemented its new policy on Tuesday prohibiting any new political ads from running the week before the election in a rollout that was riddled with glitches.

The company first announced the ban in September as part of a broader set of policies aimed at combatting misinformation ahead of the election. Notably, the rule does not prohibit all political ads — campaigns can still run old ones.

In fact, political advertisers are even allowed to change the budget of those ads and decide when they would run. Under the election week ban, anyone running a political ad is simply required to submit and run any new ads before midnight Pacific Time on Monday.

But on Tuesday, both Democratic and Republican strategists reported immediate problems and told reporters that ads they had previously run, and thus met Facebook’s guidelines, had been banned.

Eric Frenchman, the chief marketing officer at Republican digital firm Campaign Solutions, told Reuters that several campaigns he was working with were hit. A spokesperson for the campaign of Democratic nominee Joe Biden also informed the outlet that an undisclosed number of the former vice president’s campaign ads had been impacted.

In a statement on Twitter, Biden’s digital director Rob Flaherty slammed Facebook and called the company’s ban a “silly, performative pre-election hoop-jumping exercise.”

Big Issues for Small Campaigns

That criticism was also echoed by Maddie Kriger, the Integrated Media Director at the progressive advocacy organization and super PAC Priorities USA, who told CNBC the organization’s previously-approved ads had been blocked too.

“Even [with] accidental errors, an error like this has a huge impact on our program and our ability to communicate to voters,” she said. “It’s really unacceptable at this stage of the election. It’s just such high stakes that 12 hours in a week left situation is a real loss.”

Facebook has been one of the cheapest and most effective ways for candidates — especially in local races — to share their messages with voters. At the end of the day, glitches like this may not be a big deal for campaigns like Biden’s or President Donald Trump’s, which have a lot of money and manpower. 

However, these technical issues can seriously impact those smaller campaigns that might not have enough financial and physical support for alternative outreach like emails and phone banking during this key final stretch before the election. This is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic when in-person outreach like door-knocking and campaign events are limited.  

It is unclear if these problems persisted into Wednesday, though Facebook spokesperson Rob Leathern said in a tweet that the company was looking into it.

“We’re investigating the issues of some ads being paused incorrectly, and some advertisers having trouble making changes to their campaigns,” he said. “We’re working quickly on these fixes, and will share an update once they are resolved.”

Trump Campaign Ads

The glitches were not the only backlash Facebook experienced Tuesday over the policy. While strategists for smaller, local campaigns worried about communicating with voters, others noted that the Trump campaign had been allowed run ads that appeared to violate Facebook’s rules on election misinformation and declaring victory before all votes are counted.

In one ad, a picture of Trump with the text “Election Day is Today” implored people to “vote TODAY!” without any further context. 

CNBC also reported that the campaign also had an ad boasting about GDP figures that have not yet been released, as well as another that the outlet described as a “victory ad.”

“A video in the ad shows the president’s face superimposed on a sun, with a voiceover pulled from various sources,” CNBC reported. “‘It’s morning in America. Donald J. Trump is still president of the United States,’ the video says. Flowers rise from the ground and open to faces, who scream, ‘NOOOO!’ as the smiling president, now also a hummingbird, flits around.”

According to reports, those ads are not currently being run. They are, however, visible in Facebook’s ad library as pre-approved ads, which means that in order to have met Facebook’s rules for election week ads, they had to have been run at some point before now. As a result, some outlets claimed the messages appeared to be the Trump campaign’s way of getting around the ban.

Despite having previously approved the ads and even letting them run at some point, a few hours after media reports about the technical issues began to surface, Facebook told reporters that it would be removing the “vote TODAY!” ads.

“As we made clear in our public communications and directly to campaigns, we prohibit ads that say ‘Vote Today’ without additional context or clarity,” the company said in a statement.

However, a spokesperson also told CNBC Facebook would not take down the ads where Trump claimed he was “still your president” because regardless of the election outcome, Trump will still be president until Jan. 20.

In a statement, Trump’s Deputy National Press Secretary Samantha Zager condemned Facebook for removing the “vote TODAY!” ads and accused the company of censoring political messages to sway the election in favor of Biden.

“This is election interference at the hands of the Silicon Valley Mafia, and it is dangerous for our democracy,” she said.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNBC) (Reuters)

Continue Reading

Politics

Amy Coney Barrett Sworn In As Newest Supreme Court Justice. Here’s What Comes Next

Published

on

  • On Monday, Amy Coney Barrett was officially sworn in as the new justice on the Supreme Court, ending a highly contentious partisan battle just a week before the election.
  • In the weeks following the election, the new justice is set to hear several landmark cases, including the most recent challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and another lawsuit that involves LGBTQ discrimination protections.
  • Many critics have expressed concerns that Barrett will push the court to overrule the ACA and try to roll back LGBTQ protections based on her previous public statements and personal views.
  • As soon as the end of this week, the Supreme Court will also decide whether or not to hear two election-related cases regarding mail-in ballots extensions in key battleground states.

Barrett Appointed to Supreme Court

The Senate officially approved the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday with a vote of 52 to 48.

The decison fell almost entirely along party lines, and though her nomination was hotly contested, this outcome was largely expected.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) was the only Republican to vote against the appointment. No Democrats voted to confirm Barrett, marking the first time in 151 years that not one member of the minority party voted to confirm a justice.

The confirmation marks the end of the historic, lightning-fast nomination process defined by partisan divisions. Democrats repeatedly accused their Republican colleagues of hypocrisy for breaking the precedent they themselves set when they blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination ten months before the 2016 election.

That decision was made under the premise that the nomination came too close to the election and that the next president should get to pick the nominee.

Now, with just seven days to go before the election, Republicans have their new Supreme Court justice, as well as a solid conservative majority on the highest court for the first time since the 1930s.

Here’s a look at what happens next.

Affordable Care Act

Judge Barrett is being seated right as the court is scheduled to hear some highly consequential cases. Arguably the most significant is the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The court will begin hearing oral arguments on starting Nov. 10, just one week after the election.

With Barrett assuming her role on the bench right as the court is set to hear the landmark case, many expressed concerns that she could still sway the court to get rid of the ACA, thus leaving more than 20 million Americans without health insurance during a pandemic.

The new justice has publicly criticized the Supreme Court decision that upheld Obamacare as constitutional. In a 2017 article, she argued that under an originalist reading of the Constitution —  interpreting it the way it was originally written — Obamacare would not be allowed.

In that same article, Barrett also criticized Chief Justice Roberts’ stance on the ACA and claimed that he considered too many factors outside of the Constitution

Notably, when pressed on the topic during her Senate confirmation hearings, she did give some supporters of the law hope when she outlined her views on the legal doctrine known as severability, which allows for parts of a law to be struck down without getting rid of an entire law.

Barrett told the Senators that the presumption is to always favor severing parts of a given law rather than scrapping the whole thing. Some argued that opinion would be favorable for how she may rule on Obamacare, but others remained skeptical.

LGBTQ Protections

Even before hearing the ACA arguments, the Supreme Court is also set to take up another key case that could allow private agencies that receive taxpayer funding to provide government services to deny those services to people based on their sexual orientation.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed against the City of Philadelphia by Catholic Social Services (CSS) in 2018. City officials canceled a contract with the agency to provide foster care services to children after learning that CSS refused to accept same-sex couples as foster parents because of its own religious objections.

A lower court ruled that the city was allowed to end the contract because it fell under the enforcement of its anti-discrimination policy, and an Appeals Court upheld that decision. Now the case is set to go before the Supreme Court, and the consequences could highly significant.

“A broad ruling could decide when religious organizations deserve exemptions from anti-discrimination laws that the groups say would cause them to violate deeply held beliefs, such as what constitutes a marriage,” The Washington Post explained.

Many Democrats and activists have criticized Barrett for her controversial views on LGBTQ rights, specifically pointing to a lecture she gave in 2016 where she defended Supreme Court justices who argued against making gay marriage legal.

Others have also noted a separate speech she gave, where she argued that Title IX — the law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in education programs or other activities that receive federal funding — does not apply to trans people. 

During the Senate hearings, Barrett was largely tight-lipped about her views on key Supreme Court decisions. At one point she refused to say whether she believed the case that established gay marriage as legal had been decided properly.

Election Cases

There are also some other legal battles that Barrett could rule on as early as later this week. This Friday, the justices are expected to meet privately to decide what cases could still be added to this term’s docket.

Two of the cases they are considering are emergency orders regarding ballot extensions in two key battleground states: Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Last week, the Supreme Court denied a request from Pennsylvania’s Republican Party to shorten the deadline in which state election officials could receive absentee ballots. The highest court took up the case after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court sided with Democrats and allowed them to extend the deadline that mail-in ballots could be received to three days after the election.

Notably here, the Supreme Court did not directly rule against the Republicans, but instead split the decision 4-4, meaning the court was deadlocked, and thus the decision from the lower court would stand.

But now, with the ninth seat filled, Pennsylvania Republicans are asking the court to reconsider blocking the extension and to fast-track the decision.

In a very similar legal battle, the high court has also been asked to consider whether or not to hear a case brought by the Trump campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party asking them to block a mail-in ballot extension approved by the State Board of Elections last month.

The extension would allow officials to receive ballots postmarked by Election Day for nine days after the election. So far, that new deadline has already been held up by a district court and a federal appeals court.

Wisconsin and Kavanaugh

Currently, it is unclear if the court will hear either case, though it is worth noting that they have taken up a number of similar election-related legal battles in recent weeks.

On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 5-3 to reject attempts by Democrats in Wisconsin to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots to six days after the election. Instead, the court ruled that mail-in ballots in the state can only be counted if they arrive on Election Day.

While the court did not provide a reason for this decision, as is normal in cases like this, some justices filed opinions including Brett Kavanaugh, who sparked controversy in his defense of his decision to strike down the extension.

“Those States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election,” he wrote, arguing for the importance of deadlines. “And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Many condemned the justice, accusing him of issuing a shockingly partisan opinion and arguing that the situation he detailed would not be considered “flipping” the election, including Justice Elana Kagan, who took aim at Kavanaugh’s argument here in a footnote in her own opinion.

“But there are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted,” she wrote. “And nothing could be more ‘suspicio[us]’ or ‘improp[er]’ than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process.”

Some also pointed out the fallacy in Kavanaugh’s argument that mail-in ballots that arrive after election day will change the outcome that a majority of voters wanted. 

“If Trump leads by 10 votes on Nov. 3 but 6,000 ballots arrive the day after having been sent on Oct. 24, most of them preferring former vice president and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Kavanaugh worries that this constitutes an unfair rejection of the will of the public,” The Post wrote.

Others still argued that Kavanaugh’s opinion is especially concerning given the fact that currently, election officials in at least 18 states and Washington, D.C., do count ballots that arrive after Election Day. 

“In these states, there is no result to ‘flip’ because there is no result to overturn until all valid ballots are counted,” Slate reported, noting that Kavanaugh’s opinion echoes false claims repeatedly made by President Donald Trump about absentee voting.

In fact, early that same day, the president posted a tweet that mirrored the justices’ argument almost exactly. 

“Big problems and discrepancies with Mail In Ballots all over the USA,” he wrote. “Must have final total on November 3rd.”

The post was quickly flagged by Twitter as election-related misinformation.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Slate) (CNN)

Continue Reading