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Trump Campaign Presses Ahead With Lawsuits After Losing Key Legal Battles

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  • On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a case filed by the Trump campaign alleging that Republican observers were forced to stand too far away from ballot counting in Philadelphia. The court argued the 15-18 feet they were given was enough to do their job.
  • Separately, Trump’s team also experienced another loss in Michigan after Republicans on the election board in Wayne County reversed an earlier decision to not verify ballots after massive backlash.
  • Despite these and other recent losses, the Trump campaign is still moving forward with other highly questionable cases.
  • After the Pennsylvania ruling, Trump’s team filed a suit in Nevada asking officials to reverse the will of the people and give the state’s electoral votes to the president.

String of Losses

After numerous legal losses in the last few days alone, President Donald Trump and his campaign are moving forward with new dubious legal challenges aimed at overturning the result of the election. 

However, the president’s legal strategy of throwing everything against a wall to see what sticks is not working out too well.

“There have been something like 30 or 40 of these lawsuits filed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and so on,” Harvard Law School professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos told CBS News on Monday. “To this point, dozens of defeats have piled up for the Trump campaign.”

Not only have major losses been piling up, but the Trump campaign has also been dropping some cases too because they have next to no chance of standing up in court 

Meanwhile, lawyers and even entire law firms that have been bringing these suits for Trump are withdrawing from the legal fights, leaving the campaign scrambling to fill the spaces in key cases with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Pennsylvania Lawsuits

The Trump campaign took yet another hit in the keystone state this week after a series of defeats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona on Friday.

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to strike down a lawsuit brought against Philadelphia’s county election board. In it, the Trump campaign alleged that Republican observers watching ballots being counted in Philadelphia were kept 15-18 feet away from the election workers, which they claimed was too far away to see if there were irregularities in the process.

A lower court denied that request, the campaign appealed it, and an appeals court ruled in their favor on Nov. 5, allowing observers to stand six feet away as long as they abided by COVID-safe guidelines like wearing masks.

The election board then appealed that decision to the state’s Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the first court’s decision and ruled that Philadelphia’s election protocols were set up with, “careful consideration of how it could best protect the security and privacy of voters’ ballots, as well as safeguard its employees and others who would be present during a pandemic for the pre-canvassing and canvassing process.”

The court also noted that observers were simply directed to observe the process — not audit the ballots for irregularities — and that they were very much able to observe election workers “performing their duties” as required at the safe 15-18 foot distance.

That ruling was also significant because of how it could play into the other lawsuits the campaign has brought in Pennsylvania, which has seen the most single filings of any state.

In fact, at the same time that Pennsylvania’s highest court made that ruling, Giuliani had just finished giving highly unusual opening arguments in a federal court case elsewhere in the state in what marked his first appearance before a judge in decades.

The case that Giuliani was arguing — though at times he appeared confused as to which of the many lawsuits he was talking about — was narrowly focused on whether election officials in Pennsylvania should have given voters the ability to fix issues with their mail-in ballots after submitting them.

Some counties in the state did allow voters to fix the issues, but others did not. The Trump campaign has argued that that is unconstitutional and is attempting to block Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State from certifying the election results.

Or at least, that’ was what they were supposed to be arguing. Instead, in his court appearance Tuesday, Giuliani made a number of wildly baseless claims entirely unrelated to the lawsuit, saying, without any evidence, that there was a massive conspiracy behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory. 

“It’s a widespread, nationwide voter fraud,” he claimed, accusing local election officials of being part of a “little mafia.”

The president’s lawyer also claimed Republican observers had been prevented from watching the ballot counts, though he later acknowledged that the president’s legal team had dropped that claim in the lawsuit because they knew it would not hold up.

When questioned by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann as to whether Giuliani was bringing new claims of fraud that were not mentioned in the suit at hand, he admitted that it was not a fraud case, but continued to complain about the “fraudulent process.” 

“So you are alleging a fraud,” Brann responded, adding such claims would need a higher standard than just baseless suspicion to make a real case.

Michigan Certification

The Trump campaign also saw another major upset Tuesday, though this one did not stem from a legal case, but rather from a decision made by an election board in Wayne County, Michigan, which is home to Detroit.

There, the two Republican members of the election board, Monica Palmer and William Hartman, refused to certify the election results. They argued that in some precincts in the county, and specifically in Detroit, the number of recorded votes did not line up with the number of voters who were listed as having shown up to vote.

However, many people pushed back heavily against this objection, including the Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and other top officials, who pointed out that most of the discrepancies at the precincts involved a very small number of ballots.

Officials noted that these small blips likely just stemmed from easily explained situations like a voter leaving a long line, or an absentee ballot kicked out of a tabulator because a voter decided to cast their ballot in person.

Benson, who agreed to a comprehensive audit of the Detroit precincts, also specifically said that all the evidence they currently have shows that the election had been run cleanly, that there was no evidence of fraud, and that these discrepancies were just due to clerical errors.

She added that it was irresponsible for the Republicans to refuse to verify these legal votes over such a minor and normal election occurrence.

That point was echoed by other voters, activists, and community members, many of whom pointed to the fact that Palmer even argued at one point that the results should be certified in one of the predominantly white suburbs outside of the majority-Black Detroit, even though it had an even bigger variance in ballots cast to voters who turned out.

Following the massive outcry, Palmer and Hartman reversed their decision and agreed to certify the results. 

New Lawsuit in Nevada 

Notably, all of campaign’s many recent losses have not stopped team Trump from filing more questionable lawsuits.

Following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday, the campaign filed another lawsuit in Nevada asking that Trump “be declared the winner of the Election in Nevada,” or for the results to at least be annulled so that no winner is certified by the elections board.

In the lawsuit, the campaign claimed, again without evidence, that “fraud and abuse renders the purported results of the Nevada election illegitimate.” Trump’s team also argued in the suit that a signature verification machine in Clark County, the most populous county in Nevada, was flawed, and that poll watchers were denied meaningful access to the ballot counting process.

A Clark County election official pushed back, and said that the Trump campaign inaccurately described both claims. 

“On both of these issues, state and federal courts have already rejected their allegations,” the official said.

While the cascade of lawsuits might seem endless, there is an end in sight: Dec. 8.

Also known as the safe harbor deadline, Dec. 8 is the date by which all legal challenges and recounts must be settled and electors must be solidified by states.

Technically, Trump could still file a lawsuit after that, though it would almost certainly be tossed out immediately.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times) (CBS News)

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Former Capitol Security Officials Blame Intelligence Failures for Insurrection

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  • During the Senate’s first hearing into security failures that lead to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, top officials provided new insights but shirked responsibility.
  • Many blamed the FBI for not gathering more information or properly communicating what they did know, arguing that the breakdown was a result of the intelligence community not taking domestic extremism seriously.
  • Police leaders noted that a bulletin from an FBI field office warning of a “war” at the Capitol, issued a day before the insurrection, was not properly flagged or delivered.
  • However, others noted that the Capitol Police had in fact issued an internal alert three days before warning of similar threats.

Security Officials Shirk Responsibility

Former top officials responsible for security at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection testified before the Senate for the first time Tuesday.

While the testimonies represented the most detailed accounts of the security failures leading up to and during attacks, they also raised questions about how those failures came out.

The top officials did acknowledge some of their own mistakes and admitted they were unprepared for such an event. Still, they largely deflected responsibility for the breakdown in communication and instead blamed intelligence officials, their subordinates, and even each other at times.

All of the officials testified that the FBI and the intelligence community had failed to detect information about the intentions of the pro-Trump insurrectionists and properly relay what they did know before the attack.

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee depicted the collapse in communication as a broader failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to take domestic extremism as seriously as foreign threats.

Specifically, both officials mentioned this in the context of a bulletin issued a day before the insurrection by the FBI’s office in Norfolk, Virginia. That bulletin warned of a “war” at the Capitol on Jan.  6.

In his testimony, Sund — who resigned the day after the insurrection — disclosed for the first time that the alter had in fact been sent to the Capitol Police through the Joint Terrorism Task Force but said it was never forwarded to him or either of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.

Contee also said the D.C. police department received the warning, but it was a nondescript email and not labeled as a priority alert that would demand immediate attention.

“I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something,” he told the Senators.

Contradictory Information

However, lawmakers pointed out that the Capitol Police did have warnings about the attack in the form of their own internal intelligence report issued three days before the planned pro-Trump rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol.

In that 12-page memo, some of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the Capitol Police intelligence unit warned that “Congress itself” could be targeted by Trump supporters who believed the electoral college certification was “the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election.”

The memo also noted the large expected crowds, the fact that organizers had urged Trump supporters to bring guns and combat gear, and that “President Trump himself” had been promoting the chaos.

Two people familiar with the memo told The Post that the report had been relayed to all Capitol Police command staff, though in their testimonies Tuesday, the former security officials said the intel they had did not have enough specifics about the potential for an attack.

Some, however, appear to doubt the series of events detailed by Sund. On Tuesday, Buzzfeed filed a lawsuit against the Capitol Police for records related to the insurrection. The agency has been criticized for not providing enough information to the media, and contradictory testimonies delivered to Senators likely raised more red flags.

Lawmakers Emphasize Need for Better Precautions 

The argument that there was so much vague, threatening online chatter making it hard to distinguish what was legitimate is something that many law enforcement officials have used to explain their failure to prepare for the attacks.

In fact, that was the exact same response the FBI gave reporters Tuesday after Sund and Contee blamed them for not giving an explicit or strong enough warning. Lawmakers hope that the many hearings and ongoing investigations into the matter will result in tangible policy changes to prevent similar attacks from happening again.

While it is currently unclear what that will look like, many leaders have emphasized the need for a broad rethinking of how the U.S. addresses domestic extremist threats at every level.

“There’s no question in my mind that there was a failure to take this threat more seriously, despite widespread social media content and public reporting that indicated violence was extremely likely,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mi.) told reporters Tuesday. 

“The federal government must start taking these online threats seriously to ensure they don’t cross into the real-world violence.” 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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Illinois Rep. Files Bill To Ban Video Games Like “Grand Theft Auto” Amid Carjacking Spikes

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  • Illinois State Rep. Marcus Evans (D) has proposed a bill that would crack down on certain video games in hopes of reducing a dramatic uptick in Chicago carjackings.
  • Illinois law currently bans people from selling “violent video games” to minors; however, Evans’ bill seeks to ban the sale of “violent video games” to anyone in the state. 
  • Among other language, Evans is seeking to expand the state definition of “serious physical harm” related to video games so that it includes “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”
  • A number of gamers have criticized the bill, calling it a misguided approach for reducing violence in the state. 

“Grand Theft Auto” Bill

Illinois State Representative Marcus Evans (D) has filed a bill that, if passed, would ban the sale of violent video games to anyone in the state.

While the bill does address the frequent debate around whether gun violence in video games inspires real-world violence, Evans is actually filing the bill primarily in response to a series of carjackings in Chicago. In fact, the bill was largely conceived with the game “Grand Theft Auto” in mind.

“‘Grand Theft Auto’ and other violent video games are getting in the minds of our young people and perpetuating the normalcy of carjacking,” Evans said. “Carjacking is not normal and carjacking must stop.” 

According to the Chicago-Sun Times, Chicago saw 1,400 carjackings in 2020 — double that of what it saw in 2019. That’s now continued into this year, with 241 carjackings already reported in the city as of Monday. Earlier this week, police charged two boys, ages 13 and 14, with stealing a man’s car after holding him at gunpoint.

The latest addition to the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise was released in 2013. Notably, Chicago carjacking rates in 2013, 2014, and 2015 were the lowest of the previous decade.

Source: David Struett/Sun-Times

The bill Evans has filed would amend a current Illinois law that restricts the sale of “violent video games” to minors. 

As part of his amendment to include all age groups, Evans wants to update the definition of “violent video game” under state law to include games that “perpetuate human-on-human violence in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal.”

Evans also wants to update the definition of “serious physical harm” related to video games so that it would include “psychological harm and child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, domestic violence, violence against women, or motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”

Gamers Say Evans’ Argument Is Misplaced

Among gamers, Evans’ bill has reignited conversations around video games and violence.

“Carjackings have happened before games and Marcus Evans thinks today that it’s the fault of video games like GTA?” one person tweeted. “I never had any need for committing crimes playing games my whole life.”

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Fox 32 Chicago) (NME)

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California Lawmakers Pass $7.6 Billion Stimulus Package With $600 Checks

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  • The California State Legislature approved a $7.6 billion stimulus package Monday that will send out around 5.7 million stimulus checks to qualifying state residents.
  • Most of the direct payments will be given to people who make under $30,000 a year.
  • Over half a million will go to people who have an individual tax identification number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number and an annual income of under $75,000. Most people with ITINs are immigrants, and none were eligible for the federal stimulus checks.
  • Additional provisions of the bill include over $2 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses as well as $35 million for food and diaper banks, among other things.

California Stimulus Bill

California legislators passed a $7.6 billion stimulus package Monday that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said he will sign on Tuesday.

Among other measures, the bill would send out stimulus checks worth $600 to qualifying people. According to reports, $2.3 trillion — nearly a third of the whole package — will be used to send out roughly 5.7 million direct payments.

Around 3.8 million of those checks will go to Californians that make less than $30,000 annually and thus qualify for the state earned income tax credit. Officials have said that Californians who claim the credit on their 2020 taxes can expect to receive their money within four to seven weeks of filing.

Another 1.2 million residents who receive either federal or state supplemental income will get the checks, and 405,000 additional payments will be placed directly on the EBT cards of CalWORKS participants, the state’s welfare-to-work program.

Notably, about 565,000 stimulus payments will go out to people who have what’s known as an individual tax identification number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number. Most of those people are immigrants, and no one with an ITIN received either of the last two federal stimulus payments.

As a result, the California stimulus bill will give out $600 payments to people with ITIN’s who make below $75,000 a year, and a total of $1,200 to those who make $30,000 and qualify for the earned income tax credit.

In addition to the direct payments, the legislation also includes more than $2 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses, $30 million for food banks, and $5 million for diaper banks. The legislature is also expected to approve an additional $2 billion in tax breaks for businesses later this week, which would effectively bring the total package to $9.6 billion.

U.S. House To Pass Federal Stimulus Package This Week

The California package comes as Democrats in Congress are hashing out the details of the next federal coronavirus relief bill.

On Monday, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package advanced through the House Budget Committee, and according to reports, barring any major objections, it is expected to be passed by the chamber as soon as Friday or Saturday.

The hard part, however, will be getting it passed through the Senate, where all 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris will need to approve the legislation. In order to ensure that some of the more moderate members are on board, leadership will likely have to have to hold negotiations and possibly scrap certain parts of the House’s version of the package.

One provision on the chopping block is a measure that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which has already drawn opposition from at least two Democratic Senators. 

See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (CBS News) (CNBC)

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