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Insurrectionist receives 41-month prison sentence for assaulting police officer

A supporter of Donald Trump who was among the insurrectionists at the US Capitol on January 6 was sentenced on Wednesday.

Judge Royce Lamberth handed down the sentence for Scott Fairlamb, a Capitol insurrectionist who assaulted a police officer during the January 6 coup attempt.

According to CNN:

A New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter who punched a police officer during the January 6 riot was sentenced to 41 months in prison on Wednesday, becoming the first rioter sentenced for violence against the police during the attack.

Scott Fairlamb pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding in August.

In addition to the prison sentence, Fairlamb will also receive 36 months of supervised release following his time behind bars. Fairlamb is the first person to receive a sentence for attacks on police officers that day.

The sentencing comes one day after a federal judge rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to obstruct the 1/6 Committee investigating the coup attempt. Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Trump cannot block the release of the documents, rejecting a claim of executive privilege for the former president. President Joe Biden has already waived executive privilege.

In her ruling, Judge Chutkan wrote that “presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president.”

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American journalist Danny Fenster faces a life sentence in Myanmar

An American journalist arrested in Myanmar is facing additional charges from that nation’s military junta.

According to The Guardian, Danny Fenster was charged with sedition and terrorism. The charges potentially mean that Fenster could spend the rest of his life in prison for simply doing his job.

The military has squeezed the press since taking power in a February coup, arresting dozens of journalists critical of its crackdown on dissent that has killed more than 1,200 people, according to a local monitoring group.

Danny Fenster, who had been working for local outlet Frontier Myanmar for around a year, was arrested as he was heading home to see his family in May and has been held in Yangon’s Insein prison since.

The 37-year-old is already on trial for allegedly encouraging dissent against the military, unlawful association and breaching immigration law.

The additional charges under Myanmar’s anti-terror and sedition laws open Fenster up to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The trial is scheduled to begin on 16 November.

As strong supporters of a free press, we call on the Myanmar government to release Danny immediately.

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Republican-backed election review shows that Biden won Arizona

President Biden’s lead in Arizona increased after a Republican-backed election review found no evidence supporting claims of fraud.

The Republican-backed “audit” of the vote in Maricopa County, Arizona was designed to show that Trump actually won the state. The Republican-controlled state senate funded the review, which was conducted by a company whose CEO spread pro-Trump conspiracy theories.

However, as the New York Times reports, it didn’t go exactly to plan:

After months of delays and blistering criticism, a review of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, ordered up and financed by Republicans, has failed to show that former President Donald J. Trump was cheated of victory, according to draft versions of the report.

In fact, the draft report from the company Cyber Ninjas found just the opposite: It tallied 99 additional votes for President Biden and 261 fewer votes for Mr. Trump in Maricopa County, the fast-growing region that includes Phoenix.

As the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, David Becker, puts it: “If Trump and his supporters can’t prove it here [in Arizona], with a process they designed, they can’t prove it anywhere.”

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Analysis News Opinion

A person of color’s right to vote and the ‘right’ to filibuster are not remotely equal

Over at NY Mag, Ed Kilgore writes about how Vice President Kamala Harris has unveiled a fallback strategy in case voting rights bills fail to pass Congress.

First, for some context, NBC News reports on the Harris announcement:

Vice President Kamala Harris will announce Thursday a $25 million investment by the Democratic National Committee to support efforts to protect voting access ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

The announcement comes as Republican-controlled states around the country have passed a wave of restrictive voting rights laws fueled in part by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the results of the 2020 election.

President Joe Biden has been criticized by some Democrats and civil rights advocates for not taking a more aggressive approach to fighting those new laws after Senate Republicans blocked voting rights legislation last month.

Kilgore argues that “it’s true Democrats have failed to overcome Republican resistance to voting-rights legislation, either by securing GOP support or by convincing Democratic centrists like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to restrict or abolish the competing right of Senate minorities to kill legislation via the filibuster.” (Ed. note: Emphasis added.)

He concludes, stating that “what Harris announced should be treated as a serious and important contribution to the cause of voting rights, not dismissed as an excuse for failure to do the impossible in Congress.”

I do not take issue with Vice President Harris or her announcement. In fact, it is vital for at least one of America’s major parties to invest in voter protections while the other party attempts to dismantle what’s left of democracy in the United States.

However, there are at least two major issues with this piece: 

1) A person of color’s right to vote and the “right” of 41 (mostly white) senators to block legislation are not remotely equal competing interests. The filibuster is the perfect demonstration of white supremacy in Congress. It was used to deny civil rights in the middle of the 20th century. Now it’s used to deny voting rights protections in the 21st century.

2) There is nothing “impossible” about the Democratic majority using their majority to pass voting rights bills. Is it difficult to get 50 senators (51 with VP Harris) to agree on legislation? Yes. But it is hardly an “impossible” task.

After all, Republicans managed to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, allowing them to ram three Trump appointees onto the Supreme Court – including a seat that they held vacant for a year in the hopes of winning the White House in 2016 and another that they filled merely days before Election Day 2020 when voters opted to kick Donald Trump to the curb. (In January 2021, voters elected a Democratic Senate majority.)

It’s also worth noting that the Supreme Court just gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the DOJ is relying on in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voter suppression law. So one of the fallbacks that Kilgore mentions is basically dead in the water.

The only thing preventing Senate Democrats from eliminating the filibuster for voting rights bills, reforming the filibuster (i.e. a “talking filibuster”), or eliminating the filibuster entirely is the will to act decisively in order to protect our democracy.

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In donating to Sedition Caucus, Toyota chooses profits over democracy

Japanese automaker Toyota donated to more Republican lawmakers who objected to the certification of the Electoral College than any other company.

According to Axios based on data from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Toyota donated $55,000 so far this year to 37 of the objectors. That’s about a quarter of the Republicans in Congress who voted to overturn the election results.

In addition to Toyota, CREW reports that corporate America has donated to 109 of the 147 members who objected to the election results. The good-government group deemed these members the “Sedition Caucus” for voting to advance the Big Lie and nullify election results even after Trump supporters staged a violent insurrection meant to stop the certification.

In a statement, Toyota dug in its heels and arguably dug itself even further in the hole: “We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification.”

In other words, Toyota does not care one bit about the health of our democracy so long as they can profit from favorable taxes and regulations. This is not surprising, given corporate America’s anti-democratic track record – particularly from Koch Industries, which was among the donors to the Sedition Caucus.

However, the news should give Toyota owners second thoughts about supporting a company that funnels their money to opponents of democracy.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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DOJ sues Georgia over voter suppression law

The United States Department of Justice announced on Friday that it is suing the state of Georgia over its recently-passed voter suppression law.

USA Today reports:

The Justice Department is suing the state of Georgia in an effort to overturn a sweeping state law that federal officials claim restricts Black voters’ access to the polls.

“The rights of all citizens to vote are the central pillars of our democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday, adding that recent changes to Georgia law amounted to voter suppression.

“This lawsuit is the first step of many we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote; that all lawful votes are counted; and that every voter has access to accurate information.”  

The government alleges that the state law was passed with “discriminatory purpose … that departed from normal practice and procedure.”

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, chief of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said Friday the state acted with the “intent” to deny Black voters’ access.

As we reported back in March, Georgia’s voter suppression law makes it illegal to give water to voters who are waiting in line. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The law also limits the use of convenient and secure ballot drop boxes, shortens the window to request a mail-in ballot, and restricts in-person early voting hours.

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit is an important step to ensure that voting rights are upheld. We encourage the DOJ to pursue lawsuits in other states – including critically important swing states like Arizona and Florida – where voter suppression has become the primary strategy for Republicans to retain power.

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Joint Chiefs Chairman notes attempt to ‘overturn the Constitution’ on January 6

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, acknowledged during Congressional testimony this week that the insurrection on January 6 was an attempt to – in his words – “overturn the Constitution.”

According to USA Today:

“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” Milley said of the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump. “What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it.”

Milley’s remarks came in response to Republican attacks on the study of structural racism in the United States, specifically at West Point.

“I’ve read Mao Tse-tung. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Milley is quoted as saying. “So, what is wrong with understanding … having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military — our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers — of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

Sugarcoating the insurrection is dangerous. Milley understands that perhaps more than anyone.

More important though are the comments acknowledging that Trump supporters attempted to overturn the Constitution on January 6 – some of whom were both active-duty or retired police and military.

Some of us have accurately called the insurrection a coup attempt since January. It plainly was: Trump lied to his supporters for weeks about bogus election fraud claims, summoned them to Washington DC on January 6, and then unleashed his mob of supporters on the Congress of the United States to prevent the certification of the Electoral College.

Milley’s comments are the highest-ranking acknowledgment of what happened on January 6. They come from a decorated general who holds a respected and completely nonpartisan position.

Granted, he didn’t outright call it a coup. But what else do you call a mob of Trump supporters attempting to “overturn the Constitution” at the behest of the then-president of the United States?

Now we just need others – especially elected officials and the news media – to call January 6 what it was and do everything in our power to prevent it from ever happening again.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Analysis News

We need an independent investigation of police and military involvement in the insurrection

The indictment of a Chicago police officer for his participation in the insurrection once again highlights the need for a thorough and independent investigation of all police departments and the military.

It’s amazing that five months after the insurrection, we do not yet have a national effort to identify and root out police officers and military members who participated in, helped organize, or provided material support to the insurrection. Dozens of active-duty and retired police officers and military have been identified to date. In April, ABC News put the figure at over 50, although it is likely much higher.

January 6 was a seminal moment in our history, one where our fellow countrymen attacked our Capitol. It’s the most disturbing and brazen attempt at overthrowing the government since the 1860s. Had it succeeded, we very likely would be in the middle of a civil war.

Given the gravity of the situation, a little more urgency might be expected. Yet there is no coordinated national attempt to expel seditionists from the ranks of law enforcement and the military. So what in the heck is going on?

It’s not just a matter of accountability; it’s also a matter of public safety and national security.

The police officers and soldiers involved in the insurrection swore an oath to the Constitution. They violated that oath in one of the most outrageous acts possible. The only thing worse than insurrection is aiding a foreign enemy – which they arguably did as well, although indirectly since the US is now in its most vulnerable geopolitical position in decades.

Then there’s also the matter of ongoing risk to the safety of the general public. Insurrectionists within the ranks of law enforcement and the military have already shown a propensity to abuse their power. It’s no wonder why we have an epidemic of police violence against civilians – particularly people of color – when white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement and the military.

And if you think that January 6 was a one-off event, think again.

Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has already endorsed the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup only months after he urged then-president Trump to declare martial law to overturn the election.

Who do you think will be in the front lines of a second coup attempt?

These people are a clear and present danger to the republic. They are a danger to their communities, particularly people of color. They have no business wearing a badge, let alone having the authority to make arrests or carry a gun.

When are we going to get serious and root out insurrectionists and white supremacists from law enforcement and the military? It’s better late than never. After all, next time we likely won’t be so lucky as a failed coup.

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Analysis News

This Republican governor is bucking the trend and expanding voting rights

It’s not exactly a secret that Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have gone all-in on voter suppression as their means to retain power. However, one Republican governor is an exception to the rule.

Governor Phil Scott just recently signed into law a bill that expands voting rights in the state of Vermont. According to Axios:

The new Vermont law requires the state to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters and give voters the option to fix or “cure” a ballot if it’s submitted incorrectly and considered defective. The law will also allow municipalities to send mail-in ballots for local races.

In a statement, Scott said that he believes “making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important.”

The governor actually wants the legislature to go even further than the bill provides. He is asking state lawmakers to expand its provisions to include primaries and local elections. (The bill allows but does not require municipalities to send mail-in ballots for local elections.)

A former Republican stronghold

You may be surprised to hear that the state with Bernie Sanders representing it in the Senate has a Republican governor, but Vermont was actually a Republican stronghold not very long ago. In fact, Vermont voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 1988. Its transition began in 1992 when Bill Clinton was the first Democrat to carry the state since LBJ. That election proved to be a turning point. No Republican presidential candidate has won the state ever since.

Just as the “Solid South” turned from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican, New England has moved in the opposite direction. Vermont is now one of the most Democratic states in the country at the presidential level – although it still elects moderate Republicans as governor. Prior to electing Bernie Sanders, Vermont sent Jim Jeffords to the Senate, a Republican-turned-independent who caucused with Democrats.

Moderate Republicans are nearly extinct

Phil Scott is less of a template and more of a dying breed. As governor, he supported Donald Trump’s impeachment. The only other Republican governor to publicly back impeachment – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker – is another moderate Republican from New England.

Essentially, Scott and Baker represent entirely different parties from the national GOP – one that is rooted in the party’s past.

The prototypical governor in the Republican Party today looks more like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, and Texas’ Greg Abbott. All three either back voter suppression bills or already signed them into law.

Rather than fight an all-but-assured losing internal battle over the soul of the Republican Party – a battle that Trumpists have won decisively – maybe it’s time for moderate Republicans like Phil Scott and Charlie Baker to lead a new conservative party that actually supports democracy?

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Analysis News

Texas AG says Trump would have lost state if not for voter suppression

In another example of Republicans saying the quiet part out loud, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an interview that Joe Biden would have won the Lone Star state if not for voter suppression.

Last fall, Harris County – the largest county in Texas and home to Houston – wanted to mail absentee ballot applications to all of the county’s registered voters. Throughout the country, absentee voting was popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several counties and states took the initiative to make the process of mail voting easier.

Texas Republicans would have none of that, though, as the formerly reliably red state transitions to a purple hue. Paxton’s office sued Harris County, and the conservatives on the Texas Supreme Court killed the plan.

According to Newsweek:

“If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million, those were all illegal and we were able to stop every one of them,” Paxton told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during the latter’s War Room podcast on Friday.

“Had we not done that, we would have been in the very same situation—we would’ve been on Election Day, I was watching on election night and I knew, when I saw what was happening in these other states, that that would’ve been Texas. We would’ve been in the same boat. We would’ve been one of those battleground states that they were counting votes in Harris County for three days and Donald Trump would’ve lost the election,” the Republican official said.

So here we have an elected statewide official bragging on a podcast with an avowed white nationalist that he overruled a local elected official and successfully rigged an election, denying Harris County voters an opportunity to simply receive a mail-in ballot application.

Paxton, by the way, was indicted on securities fraud. Former aides to the Texas AG have accused him of “violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses.” Amazingly, he continues to serve as the top law enforcement officer in the state of Texas.

Meanwhile, even as state-level Republicans rush to pass as many voter suppression bills as possible across the country, Senate Democrats (namely Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) are dragging their feet on a national voting rights law that would protect our democracy.