When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined President Barack Obama for lunch in his private dining room in July 2013, the White House sought to keep the event quiet -- the meeting called for discretion.Obama had asked his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, to set up the lunch so he could build a closer rapport with the justice, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Treading cautiously, he did not directly bring up the subject of retirement to Ginsburg, at 80 the Supreme Court's oldest member and a two-time cancer patient.He did, however, raise the looming 2014 midterm elections and how Democrats might lose control of the Senate. Implicit in that conversation was the concern motivating his lunch invitation -- the possibility that if the Senate flipped, he would lose a chance to appoint a younger, liberal judge who could hold on to the seat for decades.But the effort did not work, just as an earlier attempt by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who was then Judiciary Committee chair, had failed. Ginsburg left Obama with the clear impression that she was committed to continuing her work on the court, according to those briefed.In an interview a year later, Ginsburg deflected questions about the purpose of the lunch. Pressed on what Obama might think about her potential retirement, she said only, "I think he would agree with me that it's a question for my own good judgment."With Ginsburg's death last week, Democrats are in a major political battle, as Republicans race to fill her seat and cement the court's conservative tilt.Obama clearly felt compelled to try to avoid just such a scenario, but the art of maneuvering justices off the court is politically delicate and psychologically complicated. They have lifetime appointments and enjoy tremendous power and status, which can be difficult to give up.Still, presidents throughout American history have strategized to influence the timing of justices' exits to suit various White House priorities.President Donald Trump's first White House counsel, Donald McGahn II, the primary architect of the administration's success in reshaping the judiciary, helped ease the way for Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement in 2018, which allowed Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate to lock down his seat for another generation.McGahn sought to make the justice comfortable with the process by which a successor would be chosen, according to people briefed on their conversations, by seeking his advice on potential picks for lower-court vacancies and recommending that Trump nominate one of his former clerks, Neil Gorsuch, to fill an earlier vacancy. (Brett Kavanaugh, who McGahn recommended to fill Kennedy's seat, was also one of his clerks.)Justices, however, often bristle at any impingement of politics or other pressures in their realm. Robert Bauer, who served as Obama's White House counsel for part of his first term, said he recalled no discussions then of having Obama try to nudge Ginsburg to step aside. Bauer said asking a judge -- any judge -- to retire was hypersensitive, recalling how in 2005 he wrote an opinion column calling for Congress to impose judicial term limits and require cameras in the courtroom, only to have Justice Sandra Day O'Connor blast his column in a speech on threats to judicial independence."The O'Connor episode reflects the sensitivity that justices can exhibit toward pressure from the outside about how the court runs," Bauer said, including showing "resistance to any questions about how long they serve." He added: "White Houses are typically mindful of all this."Resistance aside, Democrats outside the White House also strategized about how to raise the topic of retirement with Ginsburg. Several senior White House staff members say they heard word that Leahy had gingerly approached the subject with her several years before the Obama lunch.He was then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Supreme Court nominations; he also had a warm relationship with Ginsburg, a bond forged over their shared enjoyment of opera and visits to the Kennedy Center. Asked through a spokesman for comment, Leahy did not respond.One of the former Obama administration staff members who heard discussion of the roundabout outreach by Leahy was Rob Nabors, who served in a series of White House policy and legislative affairs positions under Obama from 2009 to 2014. But Nabors said he recalled hearing that "it wasn't clear that the message was entirely transmitted effectively, or that it was received in the manner it was delivered."While Obama's own talk with the justice was tactful, changing conditions should have made his implicit agenda clear, according to the two people briefed about the meeting, who spoke only on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic. Democrats were worried about the prospect of losing the Senate. And the president had invited no other justices to lunch.But the failure of that conversation convinced the Obama team that it was pointless to try to talk to her of departure. The next summer, when another Supreme Court term closed without a retirement announcement from her, the administration did not try again.Neil Eggleston, who became White House counsel in April 2014, said that he did not remember anyone proposing that another attempt to ease Ginsburg toward resignation would do any good."I think it is largely not done," he said. "Suggesting that to a Supreme Court justice -- she is as smart as anyone; she doesn't need the president to tell her how old she is and what her timelines are."Given his previous tenure as chief counsel to the Judiciary Committee, Justice Stephen Breyer might have been a more pragmatic target of overtures. Walter Dellinger, a former solicitor general, mentioned to the White House counsel's office during the Obama administration a plan he conceived to motivate Breyer, a known Francophile, to start a next chapter."My suggestion was that the president have Breyer to lunch and say to him, 'I believe historians will someday say the three greatest American ambassadors to France were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Stephen G. Breyer,'" recalled Dellinger, who recently joined former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign team.Although it is not clear how, word of Dellinger's idea made its way to Breyer.Dellinger said that when he ran into Breyer at a holiday party not long after Trump was elected, the justice pulled him aside. "So Walter," he asked, "do you still want to ship me off to France?" Dellinger, who sensed the justice was ribbing him, responded, "Mr. Justice, I hear Paris isn't what it used to be."Dellinger added that he now thought Breyer was correct to resist the idea, saying "he has made a tremendous contribution in the ensuing years." Breyer's office declined to comment.In making that suggestion to lure Breyer with an ambassador position, Dellinger was harking back to similar ideas from Lyndon B. Johnson, a master strategist. Johnson lured Justice Arthur Goldberg, who he wanted to replace with his friend Abe Fortas, off the court by offering him the role of ambassador to the United Nations, saying that he would have tremendous power in negotiating the end of the Vietnam War.Goldberg never did have that authority and regretted his decision. "I asked Goldberg, why did you leave the bench?" said Laura Kalman, professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He answered her in one word: "Vanity."Johnson also played on the paternal pride of the Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, by appointing his son, Ramsey Clark, attorney general in March 1967. Johnson, who wanted to replace Clark with Thurgood Marshall, played up the notion that his continued presence on the court while his son ran the Justice Department created a conflict of interest, and Clark stepped down that June.But presidents cannot force justices to leave the court. Franklin Roosevelt floated a plan to "pack" the court by expanding the number of justices in frustration because aging conservatives kept striking down his "New Deal" programs. President William Taft could not push out Justice Melville Fuller, whom he deemed senile after the justice bungled Taft's swearing-in, biographer David Atkinson wrote; Taft had to wait until Fuller died of a heart attack a year later. (In a book about Taft, Henry Pringle wrote "the old men of the court seldom died and never retired.")Democratic leaders had precious few cards they could have played as they contemplated their options with Ginsburg. She made it clear in several interviews that she had no intention to retire; widowed in 2010, she was devoted to her work, determined to have a voice and appreciated the platform her celebrity offered her as an icon liberals liked to call the "Notorious RBG."She was clearly annoyed at any public suggestions that she step down. In 2014, Erwin Chemerinsky, now dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote articles, appearing in The Los Angeles Times and Politico, declaring that for the long-term good of progressive values, Ginsburg should step aside to make way for a younger Obama appointee."It was certainly conveyed to me that she was not pleased with those who were suggesting that she retire," Chemerinsky said.Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School, had also written a column in 2011 in The New Republic calling for Ginsburg and Breyer to step down immediately, suggesting that they should not stay on the court so long that they risked conservatives inheriting their seats."I didn't feel at all apologetic about saying something which frankly seemed to me quite clear," Kennedy said. "I've been praying -- praying -- that I'd be able to look back and say I was wrong. It didn't turn out that way."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Four years ago on the campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged that if he were elected, only "pro-life" justices would get his nomination for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Joe Biden was trying to demonstrate the lasting power of the federal judiciary. So he did the math.Addressing a Michigan law school audience in April 1991, then-Sen. Biden said that if trends in life expectancy held, a justice freshly confirmed around that time would "be making landmark decisions in the year 2020.""I'll be dead and gone, in all probability," Biden told the crowd.He was half-right.Nearly three decades later, the man whom the Senate confirmed that year, Justice Clarence Thomas, is still rendering decisions -- the eldest jurist, if President Donald Trump has his way, of a soon-to-be 6-3 conservative majority.But Biden is indeed alive, left to consider what the court's emerging tilt would mean for the Democratic agenda if he wins the White House -- and for his own attachment to the Capitol's bygone harmony and mores.After a half-century in public life, with a lead role in several indelible confirmation dramas through the years, Biden could, if elected, be saddled with a Supreme Court primed to counteract his policy aims on health care, abortion and other defining issues.Many Democrats now believe that adding seats to the court is the urgent remedy, an extraordinary step that has not been seriously contemplated since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. They argue that the court's legitimacy has already eroded amid the Republican confirmation maneuvers of the past four years.Yet for Biden, a proud man of the Senate, such an effort would amount to the sort of norm-razing exercise that might strike him as an escalation too many."My inclination is to think that he would just see that as making it more political instead of making it less political," said Cynthia Hogan, a former Judiciary Committee aide who helped lead Biden's search for a 2020 running mate. "I think he wants to restore the court to its earlier place of respect."In the immediate term, the court has unavoidably moved to the center of the campaign, with Trump's expected announcement Saturday that he is nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of conservatives, to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the stalwart liberal who died Sept. 18.If the judiciary is a subject with which Biden is intimately familiar -- perhaps more so than any modern nominee -- it is also one that he has largely avoided in the presidential race, preferring to focus on the calamitous federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and the perpetual volatility of Trump's rule.The broader irony is not lost on Biden's allies: He is, at present, effectively powerless to stop the ideological drift of a court wrenched to the right by a president who ran casinos when Biden ran the Senate Judiciary Committee.And even if Biden is elected, his institutionalist bearing might preclude his support for a possible workaround.Interviews with more than a dozen former colleagues, aides and other contemporaries from his earlier court clashes present Biden as a conflicted combatant in the judicial trenches, negotiating the constant tug between precedent and pragmatism, convention and conviction.During the Democratic primaries last year, as activists pressed him to embrace the court expansion proposals, Biden dismissed the idea out of hand, predicting that "we'll live to rue that day." But he has recently taken a more ambivalent stance."It's a legitimate question," Biden said in a television interview this past week.He also declined to answer it.A Coveted Seat on JudiciaryEven before he got to Washington as a 30-year-old senator, Biden had his eye on the Judiciary Committee.And the road there ran through Sen. James Eastland, a segregationist from Mississippi.Eastland "was probably as far apart from me on civil rights as any man in the Senate," Biden wrote in his 2007 memoir, "but he was also the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a committee that handled all crime legislation, a committee on which I badly wanted to serve."They built a relationship, Biden said, and Eastland awarded him a spot at the end of his first term.In the decades that followed, Biden's time on the committee doubled as a kind of working history of the Supreme Court confirmation process's lurch from collaborative to cantankerous -- a trajectory that Biden helped chart, sometimes assertively and sometimes reluctantly, and sometimes more by accident and error than considered strategy.He was there in 1986 for the 98-0 confirmation of Justice Antonin Scalia, falling in line despite the nominee's sharp conservative views, and for the nonconfirmation of Judge Merrick Garland three decades later, as the vice president in an administration blocked from filling the vacancy left by Scalia's death.Biden was there, as chair by 1987, to thwart the nomination of firebrand conservative Robert Bork, the first modern rejection of a nominee for principally ideological reasons.And he was there to preside over the Thomas hearings, during which the committee's treatment of Anita Hill, who accused the judge of sexual harassment, became an enduring mark on Biden's Senate legacy.Former aides and colleagues on the committee describe Biden as keenly attuned to Senate custom and determined to uphold a culture of collegiality -- one that encouraged warm relations between Democrats like him and right-wing figures like Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who led the panel for much of the 1980s.Biden, the top Democrat on the committee at the time, participated in a few preliminary skirmishes in that period, including one that ended in the defeat of an Alabama district court nominee named Jeff Sessions. And Scalia's landslide confirmation is best viewed in the context of a simultaneous fight that Democrats picked with another judge, William Rehnquist, whom President Ronald Reagan hoped to elevate to chief justice. Biden joined 32 senators in futile opposition.But any tussle then seemed to register as a one-off, rarely tethered to any broader interparty antagonism."The confirmation battles of the time were nominee-specific," said Neal Manne, who served in the 1980s as chief counsel to the Judiciary Committee when it was controlled by Republicans. "They weren't really viewed as some sort of skirmish in a larger war for the political soul of the judiciary."They also were not necessarily required viewing.For most of the decade, Manne said, "nobody came to the hearings; everybody got confirmed."The True 'Biden Test'Laurence Tribe, the Harvard Law School professor who helped prepare Biden for the Bork hearings, said that Biden had tended to resist pressure to subject nominees to explicit partisan screening, even after the process had grown more openly ideological."I don't think he ever came close to articulating a 'Biden test' for what's acceptable," Tribe said. But, he added, Biden was concerned about nominees who would lead to the court's "being way out of kilter and out of sync with the country as a whole."Bork was one such nominee. Shortly before his nomination, Biden had suggested in a newspaper interview that he would most likely support such a choice because of Bork's formidable legal credentials."I'm not Teddy Kennedy," he told The Philadelphia Inquirer, suggesting that he was no fiery progressive.Biden quickly shed that stance, arguing instead that the judge's positions on civil rights, contraception and the right to privacy placed him far outside the mainstream.In a speech on the Senate floor in July 1987, Biden insisted that ideology was fair game when the overall balance of the court was at stake. Part of the Senate's role, he argued, was not merely reviewing a nominee's background but also "preventing the president from undermining judicial independence and remaking the court in his own image."Aides and peers, including some of the six Republicans who joined him in opposing Bork, credited Biden with synthesizing byzantine legal concepts into digestible arguments against the nominee in public hearings. Bork's defeat was also something of a personal redemption arc for Biden, whose first presidential run had collapsed weeks earlier amid allegations of plagiarism.While some Republicans have not forgiven Biden, enshrining "Bork" as a verb for the unduly railroaded, any acrimony within the Senate itself was short-lived during his chairmanship.The 2020 Democratic nominee who still often interrupts himself to raise a "point of personal privilege" was known especially for his attention to detail.Thomas Rath, the former attorney general of New Hampshire who assisted in the confirmation process of Justice David Souter, recalled Biden's going "out of his way to be gentlemanly" to the Souter team."He provided a staff room we could be in during breaks, made sure of things like the judge had water, all the nice little things you do," Rath said. "He really had a very proper tone to it."Biden allies have suggested that his lowest moment on the committee -- overseeing the Thomas hearings, in which Hill was subjected to invasive and demeaning questions from Republicans -- owed largely to the same impulse: prizing Senate decorum in a moment when regular order seemed to have little meaning.But if Biden hoped to earn a measure of appreciation from Republicans, he appeared to succeed."He just had a very, very difficult situation," said former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., who championed Thomas' nomination. "And he was trying to manage it to the best of his ability."Despite any lingering passions from the Bork and Thomas hearings, Biden's time as chair more often featured largely incident-free confirmations, under Republican and Democratic administrations.Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed without a dissenting vote. Souter won approval, 90-9, with Biden's support, which found him splitting with some liberal senators like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer likewise earned lopsided votes."Those," said Hogan, the former Judiciary aide, "were definitely different days."'Not the Way It Used to Be Done'As in his Senate life, the Biden of 2020 is no Democrat's idea of a radical.But that he would even publicly entertain the idea of adding justices as "legitimate" is a telling signal of how far his thinking has traveled -- and of how far the Senate has, if even Biden seems to doubt that the present rancor can be transcended by sheer force of compromise."He's disappointed in a lot of the people in the Senate now and a lot of the people he knew -- or thought he knew," said Mike Gelacak, a former aide who has known Biden since law school. "I think he has a hard time relating to it because that's not the way he operated, and it's not the way it used to be done. It's a different place."Biden's deference to cooler-heads-prevail thinking seemed to persist even as quarrels over the courts grew more vitriolic and ideological, with Democratic efforts to block the appellate court nominees of President George W. Bush and the Republican obstruction of President Barack Obama's selections.The battle over Garland was a climactic encapsulation of the push and pull of judicial politics that has buffeted Biden throughout his career. In promoting the nomination as vice president, Biden hailed it as "the course of moderation" -- the sensible option in a divided government. Stonewalling Republicans, Biden said, risked damaging "the bonds that held our diverse republic together for the last 229 years."They were unpersuaded.Some Democrats have questioned whether the goodwill that Biden sought from Republicans over the years did him much good in the long run, given his opponents' slashing approach to the judiciary over the last decade."Unfortunately, I think he has been a little too slow," said Jim Manley, a former aide to Kennedy and Harry Reid, the former majority leader. "The idea that you can cut a deal with Mitch McConnell is just not accurate."If Biden has reached the same conclusion, he will be left to weigh whether there is any alternative to the current state of affairs besides total and ever-escalating warfare in the Senate and on the bench.Former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who served with Biden and described having institutionalist instincts in the Senate, said that she had come to believe that adding court seats should be explored."If you look over history, they've changed the number of justices many times," she said. "It should be on the table."For Biden, pursuing that course would be a kind of admission that the glad-handing Senate experiences he holds dear (and cites often) are no longer particularly relevant.In 2016, as he pleaded with Republicans to give Garland a fair hearing, Biden told a law school audience in Washington that he had helped shepherd more Supreme Court confirmations than "anyone alive.""Ohhh," Biden said, faux-exasperated, shaking his head and making the sign of the cross. "I can't be that old."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
South Carolina hasn't voted for a Democratic senator since 1998, but Graham faces a well-funded opponent and changing political tides.
"What if he loses and refuses to leave?" Olivia Troye said aides have discussed the possibility behind closed doors.
WASHINGTON -- When the top federal prosecutor in Washington recently accused local police of arresting protesters without probable cause, Attorney General William Barr stepped in.Barr, who has frequently voiced his support for police officers, brought in the U.S. attorney, Michael Sherwin, to meet with the chief of the Washington police and other top law enforcement officials, escalating the local dispute to the top of the Justice Department.The meeting grew heated, but ultimately, Sherwin backed down, according to three people familiar with the encounter. Barr told Sherwin to write a letter that said he had not meant to imply that the police had acted unlawfully. In a nod to Sherwin's original objection, the Washington police are working with prosecutors to identify video and other evidence to back up the arrests.The episode was an example of Barr's approach to running the Justice Department under President Donald Trump: an agenda that is squarely in line not only with the White House but also with the Trump campaign's law-and-order platform and assertions that Democrats have made the United States less safe. Critics argued that the department's norm of independence from politics, widely seen as an anticorruption measure that grew out of the post-Watergate era, was at risk.Barr has threatened legal action against Democratic leaders who sparred with the president over stay-at-home orders during the pandemic and echoed Trump's accusation that they were not tough enough on protesters during nationwide unrest over race and policing. He led federal agents who patrolled the streets of Washington against the wishes of the mayor. And this week, the Justice Department seemed to play into the president's efforts to undermine voting by mail, making an unusual disclosure about an investigation into nine discarded military mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.In public comments, Barr has expounded on topics outside of what recent attorneys general publicly discussed during an election, particularly his sharp critiques of Democrats and his grim pronouncements that they could destroy democracy. In a recent interview with a Chicago journalist, after acknowledging that he is not supposed to wade into politics but narrowly defining that as campaign appearances, Barr declared that the country would "go down a socialist path" if it elects former Vice President Joe Biden.Under Barr, the Justice Department is as close as it has been to the White House in a half-century, historians said. Not since John Mitchell steered the Nixon reelection effort from the fifth floor of the Justice Department has an attorney general wielded the power of the office to so bluntly serve a presidential campaign, they said."The norm has been that attorneys general try to keep the reputation of the department bright and shiny as a nonpartisan legitimate arm of the government that needs to be trusted by everyone," said Andrew Rudalevige, a history professor at Bowdoin College who studies the power of the presidency.A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Barr's defenders said he was simply applying his own judgment and any benefit to Trump's campaign was incidental."Barr does what, in his best judgment, is the right thing," said George J. Terwilliger III, who served as deputy attorney general under Barr during the first Bush administration. "If the president is a political beneficiary of that, he is a collateral beneficiary, not an intended one."In recent months, as two forces -- the spread of the coronavirus and protests over police killings of Black people -- dominated headlines, Trump sought to blame Democrats for fomenting civil unrest and contributing to it through their handling of the pandemic.The Justice Department, particularly the civil rights division, took aim at Democratic elected officials as well.The division threatened action against states with Democratic governors including Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York and New Jersey for nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus. It did not similarly request information from Republican-led states like Idaho, Indiana, Iowa and New Hampshire, where nursing home deaths linked to the pandemic accounted for large proportions of deaths. (On Friday, the Massachusetts attorney general announced indictments of two former leaders of a veterans' home that was the site of an outbreak that the Justice Department has also investigated.)And when the president pressured Democratic governors to lift stay-at-home orders imposed to slow the spread of the virus, the division accused states led by Democrats, including Michigan, Hawaii, New Mexico, Maine, Illinois, Colorado and Washington, of harming the economy and unconstitutionally limiting church attendance.In a speech this month, Barr called the stay-at-home orders the biggest constraint on civil liberties since slavery, setting off a firestorm of criticism.Barr's language has also matched the president's on blaming far-left extremists for the violence at protests. The attorney general told CNN that Antifa, a loose collection of anti-fascist activists, is the "ramrod for the violence" in cities where crime has broken out during the protests.But the department has criminally charged multiple people who admitted affiliations with far-right and white supremacist groups. In a news release on Thursday promoting more than 300 arrests in recent months stemming from the demonstrations, the department made no mention of their allegiances.As anti-racism protests swelled nationwide this year, the civil rights division told the city attorney's office in Seattle, where some residents had established a police-free zone for protesting, that it was exploring potential enforcement action against the city for allowing it, said Stephanie Formas, the chief of staff for Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat.The division requested 911 call data and a meeting with the Seattle Police Department to examine the city's handling of the protest zone, but the meeting never happened, Formas said.The notification came two days after Barr told Fox Business Network in June he might "have to do something" to challenge the autonomous area. A department spokeswoman said that the career lawyers in the division explored legal actions against Seattle officials on their own without prompting from Barr or Eric Dreiband, the head of the civil rights division.As protests wore on, Trump accused Democratic leaders of allowing violence to spiral out of control, labeling New York, Seattle and Portland as "anarchistic cities" and announcing with fanfare that he had asked Barr to determine whether they should lose their federal funding. This week, the Justice Department announced that Barr concluded that they should.The matter helped fuel the president's attacks on Democrats but changed little; Congress doles out federal funding, not the executive branch.Current Justice Department employees rarely publicly criticize it or the attorney general, but this week a federal prosecutor in Massachusetts criticized what he deemed the "unprecedented politicization of the office of the attorney general" and accused Barr of bringing shame on the department."The attorney general acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump," James D. Herbert, the prosecutor, said in a letter to The Boston Globe. "This is a dangerous abuse of power."Barr is not the only Cabinet member to embrace Trump's campaign agenda in stark terms -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has given speeches in swing states and participated in the Republican National Convention, casting aside a long-standing tradition that the country's top diplomat should steer clear of campaigning for the president.But the merging of their messaging with the president's campaign agenda stands out. "Trump's use of Cabinet members as campaign surrogates to this extent is new," Rudalevige said.Barr himself has long held a dim view of the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence. The White House under Republican presidents had become afraid to treat the Justice Department as fully under its purview, he said in a 2001 interview, allowing law enforcement officials to operate with an independence that eroded the power of the presidency. Barr has long espoused an unfettered view of executive authority.Republican administrations "took the view that the attorney general/Justice Department was special and different, and you didn't mess around with it, didn't intervene, you didn't interfere," he said of his first stint as attorney general during the George Bush administration.While all presidents promote the accomplishments of their administrations, Barr's view defied the norm of the past several decades where presidents and attorneys general have typically sought a separation between the White House and the Justice Department to preserve the appearance that justice is meted out fairly, regardless of political affiliation."What used to be, by design, independent legal decisions by the department are now carefully staged to maximize their political impact," said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. "It's one thing to take advantage of some of the Justice Department's work for political reasons, but to turn the department basically into a satellite office of the Trump campaign is incredibly damaging to any institutional independence that was left."Barr's approach, however, could represent a new era of closeness between the White House and the Justice Department. Biden, who has frequently criticized the Trump Justice Department, said this week that if he wins the election, he would consider bringing the department's civil rights division into the White House to give it more authority.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, seen as a potential successor to Mitch McConnell in the Senate, faces a career-defining moment.
This election cycle, Georgia is in the unique position of having both Senate seats on the ballot, but with less than 40 days until Nov. 3, Democrats still need to consolidate support around one candidate in the crowded "jungle primary" special election -- or risk being shut out of the all-but-guaranteed January runoff. With 21 candidates all competing on the same ballot, no one is expected to amass a majority of the vote on Election Day, which is required under Georgia state law for all elections, excluding the presidency, to win outright. On the Republican side, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins, the current congressman for the 9th Congressional District, are basically running a primary campaign against each other, going tit-for-tat to prove who's the most conservative, pro-Donald Trump candidate.
President Donald Trump is reportedly expected to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The president is scheduled to officially announce his choice on Saturday at 5 p.m. But on Friday evening, CNN, CBS News, and PBS, quoting sources, reported that Trump’s pick is Barrett.In choosing Barrett, who currently serves on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump will please conservatives certain to see the pick as solidifying their hold on the court for many years to come.Her selection will inevitably put abortion and Trump’s push to invalidate the Affordable Care Act at the center of the 2020 presidential race due to her previous comments on both issues.Just hours after Ginsburg’s Sept. 18 death was announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Trump’s nominee would receive a vote on the Senate floor no matter who he selected. With the election just 39 days away, that promise sets up a confirmation process that will operate at breakneck speed since Senate Democrats have little they can do to stop it.Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) indicated last week that hearings would be scheduled in time for a nominee to be confirmed by Election Day.A former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett, 48, has served just under three years as a judge but in that short time has shown her conservative leanings in rulings on guns, abortion, and immigration, according to an analysis of her record detailed by SCOTUSblog.Still, while some of the cases she weighed in on more recently will be reviewed during her confirmation hearings, lawmakers are likely to zero in on her scholarly writings and speeches to conservative groups—just as they did during her 2017 confirmation hearing.Can GOP Use SCOTUS Fave to Peel Off Biden’s Catholic Support?During that hearing, Democratic senators repeatedly asked Barrett how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions on the bench, pointing to a paper titled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases” she co-authored as a third-year law student about whether Catholic justices should recuse themselves from death penalty cases.“It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law,” she said in response to a question by Sen. Chuck Grassley, then the Judiciary Committee chairman, about the article.But it was Sen. Dianne Feinstein who inadvertently made Barrett a conservative star.After questioning Barrett about Roe v. Wade, Feinstein expressed concern that Barrett’s faith, instead of the Constitution, would guide her decision-making.“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”And just like that, Barrett became a meme and Feinstein’s remarks a slogan, a rallying cry for the religious right.In the week before her nomination, conservatives spent the week preemptively attacking Democrats who might potentially raise Barrett’s faith in the debate over her confirmation—even as several claimed no interest in starting that battle anew.Barrett was ultimately confirmed 55-43. Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (VA), Joe Manchin (WV), and then-Sen. Joe Donnelly (IN) joined Republicans in voting for her confirmation.Prior to her confirmation to the Seventh Circuit, Barrett was a professor at the Notre Dame Law School. There, as SCOTUSblog notes, she signed a “statement of protest” in 2012 “condemning the accommodation that the Obama administration created for religious employers who were subject to the ACA’s ‘birth control’ mandate.”A graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, Barrett currently resides in South Bend, Indiana. She is the mother of seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Rep. Tom Malinowski, locked in a tight reelection race, says an attack ad meant to appeal to QAnon sympathizers has been unleashed on him by Republicans.
A federal judge ruled Friday that President Donald Trump's leading steward of public lands has been serving unlawfully, blocking him from continuing in the position in the latest pushback against the administration's practice of filling key positions without U.S. Senate approval. U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Land Management acting director William Perry Pendley served unlawfully for 424 days without being confirmed to the post by the Senate as required under the Constitution, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris determined. The ruling came after Montana’s Democratic governor in July sued to remove Pendley, saying the former oil industry attorney was illegally overseeing an agency that manages almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West.
A larger, emboldened conservative majority would have the power to upend decades of precedent to block a Democratic president and Congress from fulfilling their agenda.
Staffed in part by associates of a longtime GOP operative, the ad campaign includes CeCe Winans, Dennis Quaid and others pushing an optimistic line about coronavirus.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson scripted a complaint to President Donald Trump about how the presidential personnel office is handling his agency, notes seen by reporters on Friday show. Carson spoke at a "Black Economic Empowerment" event organized by Trump's re-election campaign at an Atlanta conference center, ahead of Trump. Reporters watching on a television screen in the room got a partial, up-close view of talking points typed on the back of Carson's speech.
The Republican governor's order, which takes effect immediately, allows restaurants and bars to operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. It requires local governments to justify any COVID-19 related restrictions on restaurants and bars. The final, third phase, of re-opening also allows for fitness, recreational and personal care businesses to operate at full capacity, removing restrictions set in earlier phases.
President Donald Trump can't expect military aid from the Pentagon if he disputes the election results, according to the military's top officer as well as the leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump declined for a second straight day to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election, repeating baseless assertions that the voting would be a "big scam," even as leading Republicans scrambled to assure the public that their party would respect the Constitution."We want to make sure that the election is honest, and I'm not sure that it can be," Trump told reporters on Thursday before leaving the White House for North Carolina.The president doubled down on his stance just hours after prominent Republicans made it clear that they were committed to the orderly transfer of power, without directly rebuking him. "The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th," Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, wrote on Twitter early Thursday. "There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792."Democrats were far less restrained, comparing Trump's comments to those of an authoritarian leader and warning Americans to take his stance seriously."You are not in North Korea; you are not in Turkey; you are not in Russia, President, and by the way, you are not in Saudi Arabia," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy, so why don't you just try for a moment to honor your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States?"Chris Edelson, an American University professor who has studied the expansion of presidential power during national emergencies, said Trump's comments represented a unique threat to a central pillar of democracy. "It's impossible to underscore how absolutely extraordinary this situation is -- there are really no precedents in our country," he said. "This is a president who has threatened to jail his political opponents. Now he is suggesting he would not respect the results of an election. These are serious warning signs."Douglas Brinkley, the presidential historian, said, "This may be the most damaging thing he has ever done to American democracy."Over the past four years, establishment Republicans have tried to adjust to Trump's disruptions, either ignoring his comments or dismissing them as a temporary news-cycle diversion rather than a threat to the democratic process. Republicans appeared on Thursday to be trying to reassure the public about the electoral system while withholding personal criticism of the president, a balancing act that shows their political codependence -- one that has led GOP lawmakers, with few exceptions, to faithfully execute his wishes.Other Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins and Marco Rubio and Rep. Liz Cheney, followed McConnell on Thursday and issued statements conveying an implicit criticism of the president's stance. "America's leaders swear an oath to the Constitution," Cheney wrote on Twitter. "We will uphold that oath."Trump's comments follow a series of battleground state polls that show him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger. The president's standing has not recovered since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, despite his repeated efforts to focus voters' attention on other issues, from the economy to social unrest to the new Supreme Court vacancy.Trump initially sparked alarm on Wednesday when, asked about a peaceful transition, he said that "we're going to have to see what happens" -- remarks that intensified the growing partisan controversy over the legitimacy of the elections. Trump, as he has many times before, questioned the integrity of the voting system, and he repeated that skepticism Thursday, saying: "We have to be very careful with the ballots. The ballots -- you know, that's a whole big scam."There is no evidence that mailing ballots to voters increases fraud in the voting process, though there have been scattered instances of the Postal Service's failing to deliver ballots among other mail that did not reach its destination.At the Capitol on Thursday, Republican senators and members of the House could not avoid questions from reporters about the president's sentiment, but party members elsewhere exhibited little appetite for engaging in a discussion about them. Just four of the 168 Republican National Committee members responded to emailed questions about Trump's remarks, and just one of the country's 26 Republican governors -- Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas -- agreed to address the issue when contacted through their press offices."Our common commitment to democracy and the rule of law," Hutchinson wrote, "is not dependent upon the actions of any one individual. "Republican congressional aides scrambled to respond to Trump's remarks on Wednesday night, settling on an informal strategy that affirmed broad constitutional principles and trod lightly around Trump, the most powerful and popular member of their party. They also attempted to throw the question back at Democrats by seizing on Hillary Clinton's recent remark, which stopped short of Trump's comment, that Democrats "should not concede the election" until all legal options had been exhausted.Collins, a moderate facing the most challenging reelection fight of her career -- in a state that is becoming more favorable to Democrats -- was the rare Republican to refer directly to Trump as she questioned his actions."I don't know what his thinking was, but we have always had a peaceful transition between administrations," Collins said. "The peaceful transfer of power is a fundamental tenet of our democracy, and I am confident that we will see it occur once again."Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican elections lawyer who retired last month, said Republican senators -- even those who have sought to distance themselves from Trump -- are limited in how much they can criticize a president who remains overwhelmingly popular with the party's base.His leverage over the rank and file is even greater as he prepares to announce a Supreme Court nominee nearly all of them will support," Ginsberg said."The president's comments about the peaceful transfer of power, combined with his need for the ninth justice to carry out his election plans, puts Republican senators on the horns of a dilemma," Ginsberg said.Democrats, seemingly powerless to stop the court nomination, accused Republicans of enabling Trump in the interest of short-term political gain.Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said his Republican colleagues had an obligation to denounce any suggestion that Trump would not participate in a peaceful transfer of power."Anyone elected who takes an oath to the Constitution has the responsibility to respond and say this is unacceptable," Merkley said in an interview. "This is the way authoritarian dictators operate. They have show elections and they say, 'I win, and I will make sure the results show I win.'"On Wednesday, Trump merged the two story lines involving the court and the legitimacy of the election. He said he expected voting disputes to be decided by the Supreme Court and urged a swift confirmation for a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Two leading Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have echoed the president's call for a swift action on his nominee, citing the court's potential role in deciding the outcome."People wonder about the peaceful transfer of power," Graham said on Fox News on Thursday. "I can assure you, it will be peaceful.""I promise you as a Republican, if the Supreme Court decides that Joe Biden wins, I will accept the result," Graham added. "The court will decide, and if Republicans lose, we'll accept the result."Trump, for his part, does not seem to mind all the criticism -- and appears intent on sowing doubt about the legitimacy of an election he in danger of losing. At the state level, some Republicans were endorsing his position."There is a lot of concern with how the voting process is being managed," said Deborah Billado, the chairwoman of the Vermont Republican Party. "The country was hurled into this mail-in ballot process when everyone knows the integrity of the checklists are in question. Many people do not trust what's happening."And Richard Porter, a Republican National Committee member from Chicago, said the question put to Trump about an orderly transition had been unfair."These questions to the president regarding his willingness to leave office are all trolling him -- premised on and suggestive of the notion that he's a bad, bad guy," Porter said. "Of course he will respect the actual results -- it's a ridiculous question. He's just jerking your chain."Trump has given no indication that his remarks were in jest.Former Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who has been helping Vice President Mike Pence prepare for the upcoming debates, struck a defiant note, writing on Twitter: "Smart candidates never concede anything before an election. They focus on what it takes to win."Sen. Rick Scott of Florida announced that he had introduced legislation that would require every state to count and report its final results "within 24 hours after polls close on Election Day." The federal government has no role in overseeing elections; they are conducted and certified by local officials, who abide by a variety of rules about how and when ballots must be returned in order to be counted in a presidential election.Still, the debate exposed a divide in the party that the flurry of GOP statements -- and attacks on Democrats -- could not obscure, and Trump's comments caused deep uneasiness among some stalwarts of the besieged Republican establishment."This isn't the typical Trump outrage that comes and goes," said Brendan Buck, a former top adviser to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who stepped down in 2019. "Senators are stating their principle here because it's obvious to everyone that he is, in fact, planning to dispute the results if he loses, no matter how lopsided. Calling him names isn't going to stop him, but they are trying to save themselves some trouble later by making clear they're not going to flirt with crazy conspiracies that make a mockery of our democracy."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
A federal appeals court tested the waters on a potential compromise, but didn't immediately rule Friday after arguments in President Donald Trump’s long-running fight to prevent a top New York prosecutor from getting his tax returns — a battle that seems destined to return to the Supreme Court. A Trump lawyer argued that a subpoena for the records is overly broad but balked when an appellate judge suggested the court might be able to alleviate that concern by limiting the scope of documents being sought. Trump's lawyer, William Consovoy, signaled they will be satisfied only if Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is barred from getting all of the requested records.
The White House teased the Justice Department press release, which concerned a handful of ballots in the state's Luzerne County.
If Arizona flips from red to blue this year -- and according to most polls, that appears highly possible -- it would be a historical outlier: The state has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1952, except one.But it probably wouldn't be a blip.Arizona has been trending blue for years, driven by its increasingly ethnically diverse electorate and growing Democratic strength among suburban voters."The state's clearly in motion," said Paul Maslin, a veteran Democratic pollster. A victory there for Joe Biden, Maslin added, "would be a furthering of those trends: the Latino vote locking in for Democrats, but also a suburban vote -- around Phoenix and Tucson -- moving Democratic."When Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 3.5 percentage points in Arizona in 2016, he captured only 48% of the vote -- less than any winning candidate in the state since Bill Clinton squeaked by with a rare Democratic victory in 1996.Today, with most Arizona voters telling pollsters that they disapprove of how Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic, surveys consistently show Biden with the advantage.And in the race for the Senate seat once held by John McCain, the Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly -- a retired NASA astronaut and the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- leads the Republican incumbent, Sen. Martha McSally, among likely voters by anywhere from 1 percentage point, in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, to 8 points, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll out this week.If Kelly wins the Senate election, Biden prevails in Arizona, and there is no change in the state's House delegation -- which Democrats now narrowly control -- Arizona will be more solidly blue than at any point since the civil rights movement.Maricopa CountyWhen the pandemic struck and the country's economy hit the rocks, Trump found his most powerful argument for reelection thrown into jeopardy. That was particularly true in Arizona, where business had been booming. Corporations across industries -- including tech, insurance and defense contracting -- had opened new operations in the state in recent years, bringing high-paying jobs by the tens of thousands.Partly as a result, Phoenix and its surrounding county, Maricopa, are now the fastest-growing city and county in the country, according to census data. On average, more than 250 people move to the Phoenix area each day.A few years ago, a flood of good jobs into the suburbs around Phoenix might have been great news for Republicans, bringing an influx of middle-class and predominantly white voters to a county that accounts for 3 of every 5 votes cast in Arizona.But particularly under Trump, the suburban political calculus has changed. Voters in the suburbs are now far less likely to support him or members of his party than they were just five years ago."It used to be that in Maricopa County, if you put an 'R' in front of your name, you'd win," said Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Republican strategist based in Phoenix. Now, he added, "that is not the case."In the Times/Siena poll, Biden trounced Trump by 58% to 33% among likely voters in Phoenix. But he was also running even with the president in the rest of Maricopa County, with each candidate receiving 45% support.Republicans are increasingly forced to stake their political fortunes on the rest of the state -- outside Maricopa as well as Pima County, home to the liberal bastion Tucson -- where Republicans tend to broadly outnumber Democrats.If McSally pulls off a victory in the Senate race, it will be thanks to those voters. Among voters outside Pima and Maricopa counties, she enjoyed 50% support compared with Kelly's 41%, according to the Times/Siena poll.But in a sign of trouble for the president, he did not lead even among these voters. Biden was at 45%, while Trump had 42%.Older VotersThanks to a large number of retirement communities, the state's voters skew slightly older than the rest of the country. Census projections suggest that 20 years from now, about 1 in 5 Americans will be at least 65, up from about 1 in 8 at the turn of the millennium. Voters ages 45-64 are slightly underrepresented in Arizona's population, compared with the country at large.Once again, just a few years ago, this might have all appeared to be good news for Republicans, who have historically drawn strong support from seniors. In 2016, Trump won voters 65 and older in Arizona by 13 points, according to exit polls. But among Arizonans, as with the nation at large, his support has weakened badly among these voters.According to the Times/Siena poll, Biden was leading by 51% to 40% among likely voters in Arizona 65 and older.Hispanic VotersThe Pew Research Center has predicted that this year, for the first time, Hispanic voters will be the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the U.S. electorate, narrowly outnumbering Black voters. In Arizona, where the Black population is relatively small, the fast-rising Hispanic share of the electorate has been crucial to Democrats' rising strength -- though the party has also made inroads with white voters.Nearly one-third of the Arizona population is Hispanic, up from about one-quarter 20 years ago. And while their vote share usually lags behind their proportion of the overall population, Latinos accounted for roughly 1 in 5 Arizona voters in 2016, according to various analyses.Exit polls showed Hillary Clinton winning Latino voters in Arizona by about 2-1 in 2016. And in the midterm elections two years ago, Latinos were even more essential to the victory by Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, in a Senate race, supporting her over McSally by 70% to 30%, according to exit polls. (McSally was later appointed to the state's other Senate seat.)So far, Biden does not enjoy quite so commanding a lead among Latinos, according to polls. Some have him equaling Hillary Clinton's margins -- but analysts say he has room to grow.Stephanie Valencia, founder of the political strategy firm EquisLabs, said that Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign during the Democratic primary race had done much to energize voter participation among Hispanic voters, particularly younger women. But Biden's campaign, she said, has yet to engender the same level of enthusiasm.Recent EquisLabs polling of Hispanic voters in Arizona showed his support to be particularly weak among Hispanic men younger than 50, who were almost as likely to back Trump as to support Biden."The gender divide, particularly in the Latino community, has been especially vast," Valencia said. "That presents a longer-term potential challenge for Democrats."She added, "There's a fairly large chunk of the electorate that is actually kind of in the middle here and actually needs to be persuaded."Voting by mail?Arizona has been a pioneer in voting by mail, a highly popular practice in the state for decades. In the midterms two years ago, 78% of votes were cast by mail. During the August primaries, with the coronavirus raging, that number jumped to 88%.But with Trump throwing doubt on the voting process, enthusiasm for mail-in voting has dropped, particularly among Republicans. Less than half of Republican likely voters said they planned to vote by mail, according to the Times/Siena poll.For Democrats, the number is still high: Three-quarters said they planned to vote by mail.But unlike some states, Arizona has long allowed for ballots mailed in before Election Day to be counted as they arrive -- meaning that the vote tallies we see coming out of the state on the evening of Nov. 3 will probably include most of those sent in by mail.That means we could see a relatively early election call in Arizona, even as other states sift through millions of uncounted mail-in ballots.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
With just over a month to go until election day, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has quietly ramped up its digital advertising, bringing it roughly on par with a behemoth Trump digital ad operation that was central to the president’s 2016 victory.Data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that in total the Biden campaign and its joint fundraising committee, the Biden Victory Fund, spent more on Facebook and Google ads than the Trump campaign and its Trump Make America Great Again Committee in both of the two weeks ending Sept. 20, the latest period for which CRP has complete data. In that final week, the more than $12.3 million that the Biden camp spent on ads on the two platforms nearly doubled the Trump team’s total spend, the largest lead in weekly advertising spending on those platforms that Biden has posted to date, according to CRP data.All told, the numbers suggest that one of the main ingredients of Trump’s 2016 campaign’s success may not be so effective for him four years later. And, if anything, money is to blame.The Biden campaign’s massive recent fundraising hauls are starting to show up in its digital spending operation. The campaign is already dwarfing Trump’s in television ad spending. But digital advertising is an area where Trump has traditionally been dominant, and where pundits were just recently writing off the Biden campaign entirely—chastising it as a relic of past politics with little appetite for, or understanding of, the digital world.The data suggests that Biden’s team is now making the type of investments that Democratic operatives had hoped for. And though there are different metrics for measuring a campaign’s full digital footprint, CRP’s formula is fairly comprehensive. The site’s numbers encompass both official Facebook pages for Joe Biden and Donald Trump, their running-mates (and, in Trump’s case, a handful of senior campaign aides), as well as the array of pages the campaigns have set up to court various voter demographics, key states, and issue-centric constituencies.Putin’s Troll Farm Busted Running Sprawling Network of Facebook PagesThroughout most of the 2020 cycle, Biden had lagged Trump in digital ad spending, particularly on Facebook, which has been a key platform for Trump campaign efforts in both 2016 and 2020 to fundraise and reach voters outside of traditional media channels. Biden has occasionally overtaken Trump in weekly ad spending on Google and Facebook, CRP data shows, but most of its spikes have coincided with major campaign events on which the Biden team has sought to capitalize, such as his sweeping Super Tuesday victories in March, or his clinching of the Democratic presidential nomination in June.But the Biden campaign has stepped up its spending of late. On Google, in particular, the Biden campaign’s spending topped the Trump campaign’s by more than $4.1 million during the first three weeks of September, according to CRP data. On Facebook, a huge spike in Trump campaign spending that coincided with the Republican convention late last month has mostly petered out, and in the week ending Sept. 20, Biden’s campaign dropped $1.4 million more on ads on the platform than Trump’s did.Even that total understates the trend, as it includes one day, Sept. 11, when the Biden campaign largely paused its advertising operation. Facebook ad buy data shows that the Biden campaign spent just $13,500 on the platform that day, down from $1 million a day earlier. On Sept. 12, the total was back up to $441,000.It’s hard to overstate Facebook’s importance to Trump’s political operation, historically. In 2016, the platform was central to the campaign’s strategy, and ate up a huge portion of its advertising budget. “Facebook was the 500-pound gorilla, 80 percent of the budget kind of thing,” Brad Parscale, who ran the campaign’s digital operation in 2016 and is a senior aide on the re-elect, told 60 Minutes in 2017.While Biden has managed to close the Facebook gap, he’s also devoted more funds to less prominent platforms that also provide significant reach. Since January, the Biden campaign has dropped more than $800,000 on ads on the platform Snapchat, nearly 10 times the $85,000 spent by the Trump campaign, according to Snapchat political ad data. The sums are far smaller, but that Snapchat data shows that those Biden ads were viewed a staggering 146 million times.The leveling out of the two campaigns’ online ad spending likely reflects the substantial changes in their relative financial positions. As Biden has raked in record funds of late, the Trump campaign has found itself in an unexpected cash crunch and lagging Biden in banked funds that it can put to work during the final weeks of the campaign.One Democratic digital operative who reviewed Trump’s campaign ads on Facebook said the campaign’s strategy appears to be geared towards closing that gap. “When I look at their ad strategy it is pretty haphazard and not coordinated and it is primarily being used to raising money because they don’t have any,” the strategist said. “To me, it’s still clear that they are still in a transition mode from [Brad] Parscale to [Bill] Stepien. Because by this point you would be clearly in a persuasion mode, you’d even be in mobilization with the early vote going on. And I think they’re still just trying to raise money.”Facebook Pledges to Rejects Ads Claiming Election Victory Prior to Final TallyBut if digital ad spending is a fundraising tactic, it is also itself a telling indicator of each campaign’s current fundraising capacity. Facebook ads are not just purchased to persuade voters. They’re also, most often, purchased to raise cash. A candidate will likely spend more and more on them if they bring back equal—or more—money in donations. Trump was believed to have a much more sophisticated and impressive grassroots fundraising apparatus than Biden. But the amount of money that Biden is now spending on digital ads—combined with the fundraising reports he and Trump have filed—suggests that the script has been flipped.Biden’s digital fundraising has also likely benefited from the structural makeup of his campaign. Unlike Trump, his campaign has not prioritized in-person voter contacts such as traditional canvassing and door-knocking. While Biden’s campaign committee itself paid more than three times as much as the Trump campaign in staff payroll in August, the Biden campaign’s focus on using digital tools to reach voters means its advertising spending on top digital platforms will likely continue to rise as election day approaches.\-- with reporting by Sam SteinRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
President Trump announced Saturday that he is nominating Amy Coney Barrett, a respected jurist and conservative darling, to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON -- Facing mounting expenses and with Congress yet to provide more money, election administrators across the country are struggling to meet the extraordinary costs of holding an election amid a pandemic.With Election Day a little more than five weeks away and early voting underway in some states, many municipalities and states are turning to alternative sources of funding, most notably $300 million in grants from Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.But now even that money is becoming enmeshed in partisan disputes, with conservative groups opening a legal assault Thursday to block private grants from going to election administrators in Democratic strongholds in four swing states, arguing they will disproportionately help Democrats like the party's presidential nominee, Joe Biden.The skirmishes underscore the degree to which almost every element of the election has become part of the political battlefield and fodder for preemptive challenges over the legitimacy of the vote, which have been fueled by President Donald Trump, who refused this week to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.The consequences of the funding shortfall could be especially pronounced, affecting not only the ability of state and local authorities to handle a surge in mail ballots and to conduct in-person voting but also the health and safety of voters and poll workers."Election officials have expenses they could never have planned for," said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a Washington-based nonprofit group that works with election administrators.He cited one state that was seeking $1.5 million to install Plexiglas shields in its polling places to protect against the coronavirus. "Who would have thought eight months ago that that was going to be an expense that you would need to budget for?"Weber County, Utah, is expecting to spend an additional $69,000 -- or 60 cents for each active registered voter -- on costs related to the pandemic, ranging from ballot-folding machines and label printers to personal protective equipment and sanitizer for the county's sole polling place.The 2020 election season, said Ricky Hatch, Weber County's clerk and auditor, "blows every previous election out of the water. It got busy sooner; it's more contentious; we have more costs, challenges and questions; there is less voter confidence; and we're already seeing some of the emergency scenarios that you would almost never consider play out."The prospect of election administrators tapping large pools of private money has raised new legal and political questions. That is partly because it is unusual for elections to be subsidized by nongovernment funding at this level but also because most of the cash is coming from nonprofit groups that have liberal ties, and the biggest source of the cash, Zuckerberg, has drawn fire from across the political spectrum.Democrats have criticized Facebook for insufficient efforts to fight disinformation and for not doing more to flag inaccurate or inflammatory posts from Trump. Some Republicans have argued for years that Facebook suppresses their opinions and have bristled at Zuckerberg's support for immigration reform.In announcing their $300 million commitment this month, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, said that "many counties and states are strapped financially and working to determine how to staff and fund operation that will allow for ballots to be cast and counted in a timely way."Congress allocated $400 million for election administration in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief package signed into law by Trump in March, but that was a fraction of the $4 billion in additional costs experts estimate will be associated with staging the 2020 elections.An additional House-passed stimulus bill that would have allocated another $3.6 billion to election administrators was not taken up in the Senate. And while Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin restarted negotiations this week over a new stimulus package that reportedly would include election funding, experts and local election administrators say that cash, even if agreed to by both parties in a deeply divided Congress, may come too late to be much help.That has made the Zuckerberg grants and other private funding an attractive proposition for election administrators.Most of the Zuckerberg money -- $250 million -- went to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a Chicago-based nonprofit group, to pass out to local election administration agencies. The remaining $50 million went to Becker's group, the Center for Election Innovation and Research, to give to state agencies that oversee elections to educate their residents on how to vote during the pandemic.About half of the states have applied for funds from the Center for Election Innovation and Research, Becker said.And the Center for Tech and Civic Life said the group had received applications from more than 1,100 county and municipal elections officials this year. That represents more than 10% of the more than 10,000 local agencies that handle elections nationwide.In a proposal submitted to the Center for Tech and Civic Life in June, the five biggest cities in Wisconsin indicated that they had "spent all or most of the budgeted resources for all of 2020" administering their primary elections in April, under what the cities called the "extraordinary circumstances" of the early days of the pandemic.The cities -- Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha -- asked for $6.3 million from the center to pay for ballot drop boxes with security cameras, high-speed tabulators, and hiring more workers to count mail ballots, as well as masks, gloves, face shields, disinfectant and other supplies.If they didn't get the funds, the cities warned, "it will leave communities like ours with no choice but to make tough decisions between health and the right to vote, between budget constraints and access to fundamental rights."The cities, which are a major source of Democratic votes in a key swing state, announced in July that they had won approval for the requested funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. And the next month, the center announced that it would donate $10 million to Philadelphia, dramatically expanding the election budget of the biggest Democratic stronghold in one of the biggest swing states, and $2.2 million to adjacent Delaware County as well as an unspecified amount to undisclosed rural counties and municipalities.The source of funding for those grants is not clear. They were distributed before the Zuckerberg infusion was announced and represented a sharp increase in the scale of the center's financial assistance.The center is registered under a section of the tax code that allows it to keep its donors private, but in the four years before the Zuckerberg announcement, its tax returns showed an average annual budget of $1.13 million. It had previously disclosed that it had received grants from Google and Facebook. And in April, the Skoll Foundation, which is focused on social entrepreneurship, announced it had given the Center for Tech and Civic Life $1.5 million.But it wasn't until the $250 million infusion from Zuckerberg and Chan was publicized this month that conservatives started mobilizing to try to block the center's grants.Erick Kaardal, a lawyer affiliated with the Thomas More Society, a conservative nonprofit legal group that has been aligned with the Trump administration, predicted Zuckerberg's grants would set a bad precedent.That could "undermine, over time, the way we view elections," he said in an interview, potentially leading to a scenario in which "one group of billionaires will own this city, and one group of billionaires will own that city."The grants to the Wisconsin cities were awarded by the center nearly two months before Zuckerberg's donation was announced. But ten days after the Zuckerberg announcement, Kaardal and other lawyers affiliated with the Thomas More Society filed a complaint about the grants with Wisconsin's election commission.The complaint -- which compared the grants to past efforts to make it easier for white voters to cast ballots than Black voters -- was dismissed on a technicality by the election commission last week.But Thursday, the Thomas More Society said it filed lawsuits with federal courts in four swing states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- against the localities that had received a combined total of nearly $26 million from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grants that were awarded to communities in Michigan appear to be the only ones that were announced after the announcement of the Zuckerberg grant.The recipients of the grants -- East Lansing, Flint, Lansing, and Wayne County in Michigan; Minneapolis; Delaware County and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and the five Wisconsin cities -- cast about 76% of their combined votes in 2016 for Hillary Clinton.Kaardal, who is listed as the lead attorney on the suits against Minneapolis and the Wisconsin cities, has been active in Republican politics. He and his firm also were involved in the failed effort to get rapper Kanye West on the presidential ballot in Wisconsin, which was widely seen as a ploy to siphon votes from Biden.But he said the effort to block the election administration grants was driven by concerns about fairness, not partisanship. "You don't want private federal election grants favoring one demographic area over another," he said.The suits, which were filed on behalf of voters in those states and accompanied by requests for temporary restraining orders to block spending of the grants, claim the grants violate federal laws empowering states, not localities, to implement elections and argue that the grants bypassed that authority because they were not approved by the states.Christine Reuther, the Delaware County councilwoman who wrote the grant proposal for her county, said that the funding helped the county train poll workers and acquire drop boxes, some of which were dispatched to majority Republican municipalities."I have no idea why it is a bad thing, let alone unconstitutional, for Delaware County to accept a grant to improve safe and secure access to the polls for all of its registered voters," she said, calling the lawsuit a "time-consuming, resource-wasting effort."In a statement, the Center for Tech and Civic Life called the lawsuits "baseless" and said the group was nonpartisan, working with Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan officials.Conservatives have raised concerns about the political backgrounds of the center's co-founders, who the lawsuits note had worked together at a Democratic Party-aligned organizing group, and of Becker. He had briefly worked for the liberal group People for the American Way after leaving the Justice Department, where he had enforced voting laws during Democratic and Republican administrations.Becker said he works with election administrators of both parties and that the six-member board for the Center for Election Innovation and Research included three Republicans. Since his group's grants go to state election agencies, he said the money would be used to educate voters across those states, not just in big cities that tended to vote Democratic.Hatch, the Utah election official, sits on the advisory board of the Center for Tech and Civic Life and is a Republican. He has turned down other election grants, he said, "because I just don't want the appearance of any kind of meddling or influence in any decision that I make as an election administrator."But he said that was not a concern with the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which he called "an excellent independent advocate for election officials and for voters," adding that the grants "will be very helpful for a lot of jurisdictions."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
The president announced a series of executive orders that will do little to alter health care for most Americans during an event in North Carolina.
“Enfranchising 16-year-olds would be good for them and good for our democracy.”
“At 16, most kids have little awareness of politics, civics, or American history.”
“Voting is habit forming...which underscores the importance of having as stable an environment as possible for the youngest voters.”
“Keeping the voting age at 18 is not a slap at 16-year-olds. It is recognition that an informed electorate is the best kind.”
“When young people’s participation lags badly, issues important to them receive short shrift in the public discourse.”