- On Monday, the electoral college began the process of certifying Joe Biden as the official president-elect. The process will conclude with the state of Hawaii, which will convene its electoral college at 7 p.m. ET.
- The news follows a weekend of violence in Washington, D.C., where four people were stabbed Saturday during a protest that attracted thousands.
- A similar protest in Washington state resulted in one person being shot following several clashes between armed protesters and counterprotesters.
- The incidents signal a notable uptick in unrest compared to previous weeks of demonstrations. They also follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who asked the court to throw out election results from four key swing states that Biden won.
SCOTUS Rejects Texas Lawsuits
After a tumultuous weekend of protests, the electoral college is set to officially certify former Vice President Joe Biden as the future 46th President of the United States on Monday.
Biden’s confirmation follows protests in Washington D.C. and Washington state that left dozens injured, the worst of which involved four stabbings and one shooting.
Both protests follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reject an election fraud-related lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). In the lawsuit, Paxton directly asked the Court to throw out election results in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
On Friday, SCOTUS — a court with three Trump-appointed judges and a conservative majority — said in a brief, unsigned order that Texas lacked standing.
“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the Court added.
While Biden won in all four states in question, Paxton’s goal was to overturn millions of legally-casted votes in the hope that President Donald Trump would then be declared the winner of each state. Seventeen other states then joined this case — none of them being any of the four states in question.
A group of more than a hundred House Republicans also joined, claiming that the election was “riddled with an unprecedented number of serious allegations of fraud and irregularities.” Oddly enough, they said that about the same election that resulted in most of their re-elections.
Last week, Trump referred to the Texas lawsuit as “the big one,” though Trump has previously said that about other election fraud lawsuits that didn’t hold up in court.
Texas Politicians Call for Secession
In a highly controversial statement, on Friday, Texas GOP Chair Allen West advocated for Texas’ secession in response to SCOTUS’ rejection of the lawsuit.
West’s idea was quickly condemned by members of both major political parties, including by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.), who said the Texas GOP “should immediately retract this, apologize, and fire Allen West and anyone else associated with this. My guy Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers already told you no.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hi.) said the Texas GOP “have lost their minds.”
West’s insinuation that Texas should secede from the Union is not the first talk of secession this month from the Texas GOP. Last week in a Facebook post, Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann promised to file a bill that would “allow a referendum to give Texans a vote for the State of Texas to reassert its status as an independent nation.”
Biedermann tagged his post with the hashtag #Texit.
Texas has been rife with rumors of secession throughout much of its modern history, but the only time it has ever attempted to secede from the United States was during the Civil War. Talk of secession occurred following President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 but never resulted in any proposed legislation.
D.C. Protests Follow SCOTUS Rejection
On Saturday, thousands of Trump supporters protested outside of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. for a “Stop the Steal” march. Like similar protests this year, many demonstrators were maskless and crowded close together.
The march included the likes of the Proud Boys — a far-right, male-only group with ties to white nationalism.
During the morning, while several tense situations and even smaller scuffles arose, there were no significant reports of violence.
“My final message is everybody keep the faith because we’re in the greatest revival in history,” Michael James Lindell, the creator of My Pillow, told Fox News around noon.
“And this is an anomaly, and when we get through it, we’re going to look back and say, ‘This all had to happen the way God’s intended it to and it’ll all — you’ll all be okay.’ I just want everybody in the country to have faith that God’s got his hand in all of this, and it’ll all be a blessing when it’s all over. And there’s our president!”
“There’s our president for four more years!” Lindell said as the president’s helicopter, Marine One, flew past the crowd of protesters. “There he is! God bless America! We are one nation under God!”
As the day passed, the situation began to grow tenser. At one point, while speaking on stage, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said Joe Biden “will be removed one way or another.”
Meanwhile, officers in riot gear reportedly worked to keep the Proud Boys and a group of counterprotesters separate. As The Washington Post noted, the Proud Boys became “increasingly angry as they wove through streets and alleys, only to find police continuously blocking their course with lines of bikes.”
From there, a number of fights erupted between the Proud Boys and counterprotesters. The Post noted that “agitators determined to find trouble were successful — and posturing quickly turned into punching, kicking and wrestling.” It also reported that multiple Proud Boys were seen openly drinking beers, whiskey, and White Claws between fights.
In response to the fights, police intervened, oftentimes using their batons or firing chemical irritants in order to try to maintain a wall between themselves and each side.
“Each time a fight was de-escalated, another soon began in a different part of town,” The Post reported.
In one incident, people who appeared to be members of the Proud Boys were seen tearing down a Black Lives Matter banner and burning it in the street.
Notably, that banner was taken from outside the Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in D.C.
Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills, the church’s senior pastor, described the scene as reminiscent of a cross burning.
Later, a similar scene occurred at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, another Black church in the city.
On Sunday, the D.C. Metro police announced they are investigating both incidents as potential hate crimes.
Four Stabbed in D.C. Protest
The most violent situation of the night came when reports surfaced that at least four people had been stabbed near a gathering point for the Proud Boys.
At first, it wasn’t clear what exactly happened or who stabbed who, though reports did mention that the four victims had been rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. On Sunday, that assessment was then dialed back when D.C. police confirmed that all four are in non-critical condition.
The same day, The New York Times reported that the confrontation began “after dozens of supporters of Mr. Trump, many of whom appeared to be members of the Proud Boys… shouted and pointed at a Black man in dark clothes who was alone and against a wall.”
The Times then said at least three of those Trump supporters “offered to let the man leave and implored the others to let him go in peace,” but that “after about a minute, as the man hesitated, more demonstrators closed in and began to punch and kick him.” The latter part of that confrontation has been captured on video by the New York Post.
Following that, The Times said the man drew a knife and “began slashing with it as more demonstrators piled onto him.” Part of that account was then corroborated by the D.C. Metro Police, which said the man was pushed in the back before he produced the knife.
The Times noted that the man broke free from the Trump supporters twice but was then grabbed and beaten again before police intervened. When police lifted him, The Times said the man’s face was swollen and bloody.
That man has been identified as 29-year-old Philip Johnson, and police have now charged him with assault with a dangerous weapon. Still, many of the details around this situation remain unknown.
Police have now confirmed that, in total, they arrested 33 people from Saturday into Sunday morning. The list of arrests includes assault, riotous acts, possession of a taser, and crossing a police line.
At least five others were injured and taken to the hospital over the course of the night, including two officers who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
One Person Shot at Washington Protest
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country in Washington state, a similar protest formed on the same day.
According to the Associated Press, both protesters and counterprotesters “clashed on the streets in Olympia before moving onto the grounds of the Capital building, where they continued engaging in violence against each other.”
The AP also noted that many of the protesters were armed with helmets and carried shields and clubs.
“Both groups were heavily armed, including firearms,” Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Department said. “They were fighting amongst themselves, two factions with opposing political beliefs.”
From there, police said the two crowds began to disperse from the Capitol and back to the city streets; however, as this was happening, one person opened fire, shooting someone.
Like the situation in D.C., at first, it was unclear who fired the shot and who was hit. It was only known that the victim had been rushed to the hospital.
Police have since identified the shooter as 25-year-old Forest Michael Machala, who’s now been arrested on a first-degree assault charge. In a 2017 piece, The Seattle Times featured a then-22-year-old man by the same name, describing the man as a Trump supporter. It is unclear if this is the same man, and like the D.C. stabbing, many details are still unknown.
The Seattle Times noted that protests are “becoming a regular weekend occurrence at Washington’s Capitol.” Last week, a Trump supporter at one of these protests allegedly fired his gun at counterprotesters.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
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.