- The Oklahoma Supreme Court has blocked a lawsuit that attempted to stop a campaign rally for President Trump if it did not abide by coronavirus safety precautions.
- The lawsuit, which was brought by local businesses and residents, claimed that the rally would increase the spread of coronavirus in the city.
- The court, however, argued that Oklahoma’s reopening plan gave business owners broad discretion in deciding whether or not to enforce social distancing measures and noted that the requirements were not mandatory.
- The rally, which marks Trump’s first campaign event since the pandemic began, comes as Oklahoma is experiencing record increases in coronavirus cases, which have also started to spike in Tulsa.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Issues Decision
The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit on Friday that aimed to block an indoor campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Tulsa over concerns that it would result in increased coronavirus cases.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of local business owners and residents earlier this week, demanded that the event be canceled unless the 19,000-seat BOK Center where the rally is set to take place agreed to enforce social distancing and other coronavirus safety precautions.
According to reports, the lawsuit had sought a temporary injunction against the ASM Global, the holding company for the BOK Center, in order to “protect against a substantial, imminent, and deadly risk to the community.”
In their decision, the justices cited the state’s reopening plan, which allows businesses to decide whether or not to enforce social distancing measures, but does not make them mandatory.
The Trump rally, which is the first to be held since the pandemic began, comes as Oklahoma has been reporting a record number of coronavirus cases in recent days. On Thursday, the state reported its single highest day of confirmed cases.
Tulsa, specifically, has seen an uptick in cases, prompting health officials to warn that those who attend the rally risk getting infected or spreading the virus, a fact which was noted in the lawsuit.
“Despite this alarming uptick […] ASM Global plans to host an event that will bring tens of thousands of people into an enclosed area in downtown Tulsa […] without putting precautions in place to prevent the spread of the virus,” the lawsuit stated, according to reports.
The Trump campaign has said it will take temperatures of rally-goers as they enter the arena in addition to handing out hand sanitizer and facemasks, though campaign officials have said face coverings will not be required. Anyone who attends the rally will also be required to sign a waiver agreeing to not sue if they get COVID-19.
Controversies Surrounding Rally
Since it was first announced, Trump’s Tulsa rally has been shrouded in controversy — and not just because of the pandemic.
Initially, the Trump campaign had planned to hold the rally on June 19, a historical holiday that celebrates the day slaves in Texas were emancipated and is often referred to as Juneteenth or Freedom Day.
However, the event was moved to June 20 after the initial date sparked mass outrage among those who felt it was offensive for Trump, who has repeatedly espoused racist beliefs, to hold a rally on the historic day and amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
The choice to hold the rally in Tulsa, which in 1921 was the site of one of the worst race massacres in U.S. history and resulted in the death of hundreds, also brought about anger.
Trump, for his part, took credit for popularizing Juneteeth in an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” he said of the news coverage surrounding the rally. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”
The change in date has done little to assuage the anger around the Tulsa rally, and with the event expected to go ahead as planned Saturday, the city is now preparing for an influx of both Trump fans and protestors.
On Thursday evening, Tusla Mayor G.T. Bynum declared a “civil emergency” and imposed a three-night 10 p.m. curfew in the area surrounding the BOK Center, prompting officials to clear Trump fans who had been camping out in front of the arena for days.
Bynum said that the city was expecting crowds of more than 100,000 people near the rally. The mayor also said that law enforcement had informed him that “individuals from organized groups who have been involved in destructive and violent behavior in other states are planning to travel to the City of Tulsa for purposes of causing unrest in and around the rally.”
President Trump himself chimed in on Friday by threatening to crack down on protestors in a tweet.
“Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!” he wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (The New York Times)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.