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Republicans Win Big in Virginia as Democrats Underperform. Here’s What That Means for the 2022 Midterms. 



Virginia Republicans won races for statewide office for the first time since 2009. Their wins include the seats for governor, lieutenant governor, and likely attorney general.

Youngkin, Other Republicans Win in VA

Terry McAuliffe (D) conceded to Glenn Youngkin (R) in Virginia’s gubernatorial race Wednesday morning, giving Republicans control of the highest office in the state for the first time since 2014.

Over 95% of votes were recorded as of Wednesday afternoon, with Youngkin receiving 50.9% of the vote and McAuliffe, a former governor of the state, receiving 48.4%.

For months, Youngkin and McAuliffe had been locked in a dead heat, and as such, Youngkin’s win isn’t exactly seen as a major upset.

But what followed was. 

Although Virginia Republicans had not won a state election since 2009, voters did not just grant them control of the governorship Tuesday night. Winsome Sears (R) has now been elected as the state’s next lieutenant governor. Notably, she is the first woman and person of color to be elected to the role. Meanwhile, state representative Jason Miyares (R) is poised to become the state’s next attorney general if he maintains his lead over incumbent Mark Herring (D).

Republicans are also on the cusp of regaining control of Virginia’s House of Delegates for the first time since 2019. As of Wednesday morning, they have won 49 out of 100 possible seats. Prior to Tuesday’s election, Democrats had a majority of 55-45.

Republicans’ wins in the state were underscored by the fact that, compared to last year’s presidential elections, every single county shifted more Republican — even the counties McAuliffe won. 

Many analysts have viewed Virginia’s races as a litmus test for President Joe Biden and his policies. By extension, some have also noted that this will undoubtedly set the tone for next year’s midterms, but for Democrats, it’s not a good one. 

NJ Still Too Close to Call

Democrats didn’t just flounder in Virginia. For example, while it was never a guaranteed win, many Democrats viewed New Jersey’s gubernatorial election as a much easier victory. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the race remains too close to call. That said, incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) currently has a slim lead of 15,000 votes — less than one percentage point — with 89% of votes counted. Given that many mail-in ballots still need to be counted, it’s possible his lead could grow since those votes tend to favor Democrats.

Still, this is very likely a serious wake-up call for Democrats, who didn’t expect Republicans to put up such a strong fight, especially after Joe Biden swept the state by 16 points last year. 

However, since then, Biden’s popularity has continued to drop, and there is a notable lack of enthusiasm for him even among his base. 

Undoubtedly, former President Donald Trump’s absence from ballots also played a role in the lukewarm Democratic turnout. Because Trump is such a polarizing figure, many in 2020 found themselves voting for Biden specifically to vote against Trump. 

A major factor of the poor Democratic performance Tuesday night is likely not just a reaction to Biden but also Congress’ inability to pass an infrastructure bill. As The Washington Post reported, recent infighting among more moderate and progressive members of the party “potentially feeds into a Republican narrative — which really started with the Afghanistan withdrawal — that Democrats are not the competent governing party they promised to be.”

If Democrats want to keep control of the House and Senate in 2022, they are very likely going to need to find a way to re-energize their base, and it remains to be seen whether the passage of an infrastructure bill will catalyze enthusiasm or not. 

Minneapolis Votes Down Police Reform

While Democrats remain divided on measures related to defunding police, conservatives in Minneapolis saw yet another win Tuesday night as residents voted down a major police reform measure. 

Had it passed, it would have dissolved the city’s police department in favor of a Department of Public Safety overseen by city council. While the department would have still had police, it would have scrapped a requirement for employing a minimum number of officers. 

However, 56% of residents said no to that proposal. 

A number of those who voted against the measure have indicated that they would like to see a change to how the city’s police department operates, though most voters agreed this change was not the solution.

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


House Votes To Censure Rep. Gosar, Remove Him From Committees Over AOC Video



Gosar remained defiant in remarks delivered on the floor where he defended the video and refused to apologize.

Republicans Stay Defiant Amid Censure Debate

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) and remove him from his committees after he tweeted an anime video last week that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

The video, which has since been removed by Gosar, was a parody of the popular anime show “Attack on Titan.”

At one point in the clip, Gosar, along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), are seen battling and then killing a titan version of Ocasio-Cortez.

That post garnered widespread backlash, but Gosar continued to defend it and refused to apologize.

During the heated debate leading up to Wednesday’s vote, the lawmaker again expressed no regret and remained defiant.

“I rise today to address and reject the mischaracterization and accusations from many in this body that the cartoon from my office is dangerous or threatening. It was not,” he said. “I reject the false narrative categorically.”

“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” he continued. He then went on to insist the video was just a rebuke of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and compared himself to Alexander Hamilton.

Many Republican leaders — who have largely refused to condemn the video — also defended Gosar and dismissed the post as a joke.

While some said they do not condone violence, few members of the party criticized the lawmaker. Rather, most focused their attacks on Democrats, arguing that they were abusing their power and silencing conservatives.

Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez Condemn Incitement of Violence

Democrats slammed Republicans’ continued refusal to reprimand Gosar. They said there must be consequences and that they were forced to act because his party would not.

Many also argued that they must speak out against actions that could incite the kind of violence that unfolded during the Jan. 6 insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), for instance, described the situation as “an emergency” that amounted to “violence against women” and “workplace harassment.”

“When a member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen,” she said, adding that “depictions of violence can foment actual violence, as witnessed by this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.”

The Speaker additionally noted that there are legal implications for Gosar’s video because it amounted to a threat against a member of Congress, which is a criminal offense.

Ocasio-Cortez echoed the sentiments expressed by Pelosi during her speech on the floor.

“What I believe is unprecedented is for a member of House leadership of either party to be unable to condemn incitement of violence against a member of this body,” she said. “It is sad. It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.” 

“What is so hard about saying this is wrong?” she continued. “It’s pretty cut and dry. Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable?” 

“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country.” 

Ultimately, the vast majority of House Republicans voted against the resolution to censure Gosar. Only Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) supported the measure, which passed 223 to 207.

While removing Gosar from his committees effectively takes away a major platform for him to effect legislation, the censure is basically just a public condemnation. Still, the move is significant because it represents the first time in more than a decade that a member of the House has been censured and only the 24th instance in American history.

Gosar, for his part, appeared to be unmoved by the decision. Just an hour after the vote, the lawmaker retweeted a post praising him that also included the same video of him killing Ocasio-Cortez.

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

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Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon Surrenders to FBI After Contempt of Congress Charges



The charges stem from Bannon’s failure to comply with a subpoena from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Bannon Faces Contempt Charges

Former White House advisor Steve Bannon surrendered to the FBI Monday morning on two contempt of Congress charges.

Bannon, who previously served as an aide to former President Donald Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday after he defied a subpoena to testify and provide documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball…We’re taking down the Biden regime every day,” he said when briefly addressing the media as he turned himself in to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office.

Bannon made his first court appearance Monday afternoon, though he did not make a plea and was released from custody. His arraignment is set for Thursday morning.

If convicted, each count of contempt carries a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Contempt of Congress charges are incredibly rare. According to The Washington Post, only three such charges have been brought in the last three decades.

Ongoing Legal Battle

While the proceedings against Bannon will likely be quick, they are only one part of what is shaping up to be a lengthy battle over executive privilege.

Trump has repeatedly attempted to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining requested documents, testimonies, and other materials under the argument that they are protected by executive privilege — which he asserts still applies to him and his former aides.

In addition to provoking a fraught legal back-and-forth over key records, the former president’s efforts have additionally prompted multiple previous top officials to refuse to comply with subpoenas.

Some top Democrats have said that Bannon’s indictment will encourage other witnesses to cooperate, but at the same time, it has reinvigorated Trump’s allies in Congress.

While some have threatened payback if Republicans take the House in 2022, others have also weaponized support of Bannon as the latest show of loyalty for Trump, effectively centering the matter as a key issue for the midterm elections.

On Saturday, Trump himself released a statement condemning all Republicans who either voted for the infrastructure bill or the contempt charges against Bannon, listing each by name and promising to back anyone who primaried them in the upcoming elections.

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

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Judge Blocks Trump’s Effort To Keep Records From Jan. 6 Committee



The former president’s lawyers quickly appealed the decision, and experts have said the legal battle over the records could extend into next year.

Trump’s Attempt To Withhold Documents Rejected

A federal judge issued a ruling Tuesday rejecting former President Donald Trump’s effort to block records from being handed over to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump has launched numerous attempts to prevent the committee from obtaining key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers have requested, claiming the materials are protected by executive privilege.

Last month, he went as far as to file a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing those documents.

In his suit, Trump claimed that executive privilege still applied to him even though he is no longer president, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden also declined to exercise executive privilege over the records.

The former president argued that the requested information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”

In her Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan broadly rejected those arguments, writing that “the public interest lies in permitting […] the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again.”

Chutkan additionally argued that Congress’ ability to obtain information as part of its constitutional oversight authority outweighs Trump’s remaining secrecy powers, especially because Biden agreed that investigators should see the records.

“[Trump] does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent president’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,'” she added. “But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

Ongoing Legal Battle

Immediately after the ruling, Trump’s lawyers appealed and moved to block the release of the records until their appeal can be heard.

According to various reports, the appeals court set an initial written briefing deadline for Dec. 27. Legal experts, however, believe the battle will likely continue into next year and will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court. 

A drawn-out legal process will only continue to benefit Trump, whose strategy of stonewalling and stalling the investigation has so far proven effective at hindering lawmakers.

Additional delays would further aid the former president if litigation continues past the 2022 midterm elections when Republicans hope to retake the House. 

In a statement on Twitter, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich indicated that the legal fight is just now starting.

“The battle to defend Executive Privilege for Presidents past, present & future—from its outset—was destined to be decided by the Appellate Courts,” he wrote. “Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through.”

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

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