Sen. Ron Wyden: Capitol riots prove we must strengthen American democracy by protecting voting rights for all

From NBC News Online:

On Jan. 6, at the behest of the outgoing president of the United States, domestic terrorists attacked the legislative branch of the government of the United States. Bombs were left apparently targeting us, gunshots rang out, Molotov cocktails were brought to the building, and five deaths resulted from the melee on the Capitol grounds. It remains unclear who — if anyone — was in command of the military when officials were pleading for help from the National Guard, which didn’t receive orders to assist for several hours. It’s a miracle that the insurrection failed, that the building didn’t burn and that many more people weren’t killed.

At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, my colleagues and I walked past shards of glass and refuse left behind by the insurrectionist mob to resume debate on the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Some of my fellow senators said they felt that returning to the chamber and finishing the Electoral College count was a signal that America was already turning the page.

Not in my book.

In the wake of this attack, Democrats must use our majorities in Congress to pass reforms that will defend our democracy from the forces that supported, incited and fueled the riots — which means making it easier for every American to vote. Congress cannot — must not — move forward in the belief that the end of Donald Trump’s presidency means all is well in our country.

After all, what happened after police cleared the Capitol building and workers began cleaning up the wreckage and blood? Republicans walked right back into the House and Senate chambers and continued spreading the same lies about voters and voting rights that had drawn the mob to the Capitol in the first place.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for instance, claimed that he just wanted an election commission to study the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania — where Biden won decisive victories. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., claimed that he was just giving voice to his constituents’ concerns about election integrity by attempting to throw out the legally cast ballots of millions of Pennsylvanians. It was all nonsense.

Wednesday’s phony debate about counting the Electoral College ballots was just about two elected officials laundering a violent, fanatical conspiracy — one that had already done great harm to the country and the institution in which they serve — to further their own ambitions. It was nothing more than self-promotion and a barefaced, ham-handed attempt to delegitimize the next administration.

Read the complete article here.

Trump pressures GA election official to ‘find’ winning votes in taped call

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

President Trump demanded that Georgia’s top election official help him “find” enough votes to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, according to a phone recording made public Sunday that pointed to a brazen new chapter in the president’s attempt to overturn his election defeat.

In an hour-long phone call Saturday, reported Sunday by the Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Trump cajoled, flattered and implicitly threatened Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, marshaling elaborate conspiracy theories to support his claim that he had won a state that Biden carried by almost 12,000 votes.

Raffensperger, a Republican, rejected the president’s blunt overtures, telling him: “The data that you have is wrong,” according to the audio recording. The Journal-Constitution said the authenticity of the recording was confirmed by two people involved in the conversation.

Legal experts and some Democrats suggested the president’s actions may have violated the law. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate Democratic whip, issued a strongly worded statement urging a criminal investigation, saying Trump sought to “intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting” a legally counted vote. Law professors, including Stanford’s Nate Persily, tweeted out relevant sections of Georgia’s election code.

Two months after the election, and almost three weeks after the electoral college certified Biden’s victory by a 306-232 margin, Trump is backing expected challenges to the results by congressional Republicans in a joint session of Congress on Wednesday that typically is ceremonial in nature. Scores of Republican House members and at least a dozen GOP senators have signaled support for the effort, which could result in hours of debate before each chamber is expected to reject the protest.

Republican plans to contest the election have generated scorn from establishment GOP figures, including Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. On Sunday, seven conservative Republican House members issued an unusual joint statement announcing their opposition to the challenge, warning that congressional action “would amount to stealing power from the people and the states.”

Read the complete article here.

Battleground states urge SCOTUS to reject Texas bid to overturn Biden’s wins

From today’s CNBC News Online:

The battleground states whose presidential election results are being challenged by Texas at the Supreme Court urged the justices on Thursday not to take up the case.

The four states targeted in the lawsuit warned in uncharacteristically sharp briefs that granting Texas’ unprecedented request would “do violence to the Constitution” and “disenfranchise millions” of voters. Those states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia — have all certified their election results, with Democrat Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump.

Nearly simultaneously, Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine filed a brief at the court on behalf of the District of Columbia and 22 states and territories defending the four states targeted by Texas. That friend-of-the-court brief was joined by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington.

The flurry of major briefs related to the case — including Trump’s own request to intervene — demonstrated the dramatic and lingering polarization of the U.S. just weeks after one of the most contentious elections in memory.

Pennsylvania in its brief called Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s long-shot bid to overturn other states’ elections “legally indefensible” and “an affront to principles of constitutional democracy. Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania’s scathing brief read.

Dana Nessel, the attorney general of Michigan, told the court in her state’s brief to reject Texas’ case outright. “To do otherwise would make this Court the arbiter of all future national elections,” Nessel wrote.

Christopher Carr, the attorney general of Georgia, told the court that Texas was seeking to “transfer Georgia’s electoral powers to the federal judiciary.” “Respect for federalism and the constitutional design prohibits that transfer of power, but this Court should never even reach that issue,” he wrote.

The replies came one day after Trump asked the high court to let him intervene in the case. The president, who is refusing to concede to Biden, has hyped Texas’ case as “the big one” — but election law experts say there’s little if any chance the court will allow it to proceed.

So far, the justices have not taken any action in the case. Despite Trump’s frequent pleas, the court has not shown an eagerness to get involved in any litigation related to the presidential election.

Read the complete article here.

Trump’s false claims laying groundwork for new voting restrictions, experts warn

From NBC News Online:

Even before the final votes in the 2020 election were tallied, President Donald Trump sent his attorneys to court alleging voter fraud.

When it became clear that he had lost to President-elect Joe Biden, his claims — and his campaign’s court filings — accelerated. Trump attacked cities with large shares of Black voters, who had come out in force for Biden, while his lawyers baselessly alleged a global conspiracy and filed dozens of suits in six states.

The legal strategy failed in court after court — not a single incident of voter fraud has been proven in the lawsuits — but experts warn the narrative is laying the groundwork for disenfranchisement of voters across the country.

“I don’t actually think that all of this leads to a different result in January, but I am really afraid about what Donald Trump is currently doing to the country for February and beyond,” said Justin Levitt, an election law expert and professor at Loyola Law School who worked at the Department of Justice during the Obama administration.

Despite the large body of evidence that American elections are secure from both hacking and widespread voter fraud, federal and state politicians are already proposing new laws that will make it harder to vote.

“We’re already seeing trial balloons of new measures to restrict access to voting, and I expect that this false narrative of voter fraud is going to be used as an excuse in many other places to try and drive an anti-voter agenda going forward,” said Wendy Weiser, vice president of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

In Georgia, a traditionally red state that Biden flipped blue this year by more than 12,000 votes, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has proposed several major election changes, including adding a voter ID requirement to mail-in voting and making it easier to challenge a voter’s stated residency.

“Close elections sow distrust,” Raffensperger said on Nov. 20, announcing that a hand recount had shifted Biden’s margin of victory in the state but had not changed the outcome. “People feel like their side was cheated.”

A second recount followed in the state, affirming the same result. Another Republican official in his office, Gabriel Sterling, later forcefully condemned the president and other Republicans’ rhetoric around a “stolen” or “rigged” election, which he said has incited harassment of election officials and death threats.

Read the complete article here.

Georgia’s GOP senators falsely claim election fraud just to stay in power

From today’s NBC News Online:

We are a conservative and a centrist who — at various times in our careers — have served in significant federal government roles. From the time of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush through today, we have seen in action how the adherence to the principles of federalism and the separation of powers has served the people of the United States as our Constitution’s framers wisely intended.

But the position of Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., on federal interference in their own state’s electoral processes is unfaithful to that tradition; it is neither conservative nor effective. Georgians should demand more of their senators — and so should the people of every state where similar, spurious challenges against their electoral processes are being leveled on behalf of a failed president.

The joint statement of Perdue and Loeffler claiming mismanagement and corruption in their state’s elections reflects both bad temper and bad judgment. Their claim lacks any specificity or description of evidence of actual fraud, and was issued with a malicious, menacing tone befitting dark conspiracy theorists rather than high public officials.

And, since their initial statement, neither has provided any specific evidence of fraud. (On Thursday, Georgia finished a hand recount of ballots in the state showing Joe Biden had indeed won presidential race.)

Forced to demonstrate any possible sources of election fraud, Perdue’s cousin, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, also made hollow, unsupported assertions of unidentified people voting twice, others engineering votes by or on behalf of those who have died, moved out of state, and yet others voting despite being ineligible convicted felons. He cited no evidence — and, in fact, there may be no such illegal voters — of any such voter fraud or any basis for believing that it could disqualify enough ballots to flip the outcome.

To make matters worse, Sens. Perdue and Loeffler used the opportunity to demonize Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who not only voted to re-elect President Donald Trump, but also to re-elect both of them. “I’d like our side to win,” Raffensperger said in an interview with Atlanta’s Fox affiliate Nov. 10, “but then you have to win fair and honestly.”

He added: “I want 100 percent of the people to understand that the process was fair and accurately counted.”

That is how a democracy is supposed to work; anything else, and we might as well live in Russia or China.

Read the complete article here.

Trump lies in the White House briefing room, and networks pull the plug

From today’s New York Times:

President Trump broke a two-day silence with reporters to deliver a brief statement filled with lies about the election process as workers in a handful of states continue to tabulate vote tallies in the presidential race.

The president painted the election results so far as part of a broad conspiracy to deprive him of winning a second term by Democrats, election officials in various cities and the media.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Mr. Trump said shortly after he took the podium in the White House briefing room, a false statement that cast aspersion on the rest of the election. He offered no evidence.

He then listed a series of conspiracy theories about why ballots arrived late in places. And at the same time that he insisted Democrats were figuring out how many mail-in ballots they need in order to counteract his performance in various states, the president listed off a series of Republican wins on Tuesday. He appeared not to see the cognitive dissonance in saying that other Republicans won while he lost as he outlined a plot about others harming him, and left the room without taking reporters’ questions.

The three big broadcast networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — all cut away from President Trump’s appearance as the president’s false claims about the integrity of the election mounted.

Read the complete article here.

A brutal year: how ‘techlash’ caught up with Facebook, Google and Amazon

From The Guardian Online:

What goes up must come down, and in 2019, gravity reasserted itself for the tech industry.

After years of relatively unchecked growth, the tech industry found itself on the receiving end of increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the public and attacks from its own employees.

Facebook and Instagram ads were linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process.
Social Media, Fake News, and the hijacking of democracy by reactionary forces at home and from abroad.

“The whole year has been brutal for tech companies,” said Peter Yared, chief executive officer and founder of data compliance firm InCountry. “The techlash we have seen in the rest of the world is just now catching up in the US – it’s been a long time coming.”

From new privacy legislation to internal strife, here are some of the major hurdles the tech industry has faced in the past year.

As the 2020 presidential race intensified, tech companies faced a growing backlash over the campaign-related content they allow on their platforms.Advertisement

In October, Facebook quietly revised its policy banning false claims in advertising to exempt politicians, drawing fierce criticism from users, misinformation watchdogs, and politicians. Following the change in policy, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren took out advertisements on Facebook purposely making false statements to draw attention to the policy.

Democratic lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, over the policy change in a congressional hearing in October. “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of factchecking on political advertisements?” Ocasio-Cortez asked, as Zuckerberg struggled to answer. “So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies?”

Meanwhile, other tech companies took the opposite stance.TikTok, whose reported 500 million users makes it one of Facebook’s largest rivals, made clear in a blogpost in October it would not be hosting any political advertisements.

And Facebook rival Twitter banned almost all political advertising in October. Google stated in November it would no longer allow political advertisers to target voters based on their political affiliations.

Read the complete article here.