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Supreme Court Will Not Hear Pennsylvania Election Case Over Mail-In Ballots

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said on Monday it would not hear an appeal from Republicans in Pennsylvania who sought to disqualify the ballots mailed in the 2020 presidential election that came after election day.

The brief court order gave no reason to dismiss the case, marking the end of the Supreme Court’s litigation over the election. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented, saying the court should have used it to provide guidance in future elections.

The dissenting judges acknowledged that the number of ballots at issue in the case was too small to affect President Biden’s victory in the state. But the legal question raised by the case – over the power of state courts to review election laws – was, they said, an important issue that should be resolved without the pressure of an impending election.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that ballots sent out before election day could be counted if they arrived up to three days after. On two occasions before the election, the United States Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case, although several justices expressed doubts about the power of the state court to override the Legislative Assembly of the state, which set a deadline on polling day for receiving ballots by mail.

On Monday, Judge Thomas wrote that the time had come to take up the case.

“At first glance,” he writes, “it may seem reasonable to address this question the next time it arises. After all, the 2020 election is now over, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling was not decisive for the federal election. But however strong this argument may be in other contexts, it fails in the context of elections.

“Because the court system is not well suited to deal with these kinds of issues in the short time available immediately after an election,” Judge Thomas wrote, “we should use the cases available outside of this truncated context. to answer these questions, certainly important.

In a separate dissent, Judge Alito, joined by Judge Gorsuch, agreed that “our review at this time would be very beneficial.”

“A decision in these cases would have no bearing on the 2020 elections,” Judge Alito wrote. “But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections.”

On October 19, before Judge Amy Coney Barrett joined the court, the justices found themselves in a deadlock, 4 to 4, over an emergency request in the case. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they would have granted a stay blocking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. On the other side were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the three-member Liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Later that month, judges refused a plea from state Republicans to expedite a decision on the legality of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In a statement released at the time, Judge Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, criticized the court’s handling of the case, which he said had “unnecessarily created conditions that could lead to serious problems. post-election ”.

“The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an executive order which outright amends an important statutory provision enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature under its authority under the Constitution of the United States to establish rules governing the conduct of elections for federal office.” , wrote Judge Alito adding that he regretted that the election was taking place “under a cloud”.

“It would be highly desirable to render a decision on the constitutionality of the state Supreme Court’s decision before the elections,” Judge Alito wrote. “This issue is of national importance, and it is highly likely that the state Supreme Court’s decision violates the Federal Constitution.”

But there was not enough time, he wrote. Yet Judge Alito left no doubt about his position on the issue in the case.

“The provisions of the Federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, and not on state courts, the power to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless,” he wrote, “if a court of The state could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by asserting that the constitutional provisions of the state gave the courts the power to make the rules they deemed appropriate for the conduct of a fair election. “

Even after the election, Pennsylvania Republicans continued to seek a Supreme Court review in the Pennsylvania Republican Party v Boockvar case, No. 20-542, claiming judges should address the issue she presented of orderly manner.

“By resolving the important and recurring issues now, the Court can provide the advice that legislatures and state courts across the country desperately need outside of the context of a hotly contested election and ahead of the next election,” their report said. memory. “The alternative is for the court to leave legislatures and courts with a lack of advance guidance and clarity regarding the oversight law – only to be called upon to answer these questions in a future after-the-fact litigation over a contested election,” with the time that accompanies it. pressures and perceptions of partisan interest. “

On Monday, Judge Thomas wrote that the court had missed an opportunity.

“One wonders what awaits this tribunal”, he wrote. “We failed to resolve this dispute before the election, and therefore provide clear rules. Today we again fail to provide clear rules for future elections.

“The decision to leave the electoral law hidden under a veil of doubt is puzzling,” Judge Thomas wrote. “By doing nothing we are causing further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our citizens deserve better and expect more from us. “

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Lie after lie: hear how Trump constructed his alternate reality

The 38-minute video below shows how Donald J. Trump’s persistent repetition of lies and calls to action for two months created an alternate reality that he was re-elected. Mr. Trump’s words, which were echoed and amplified by the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, are at the center of his second impeachment trial.

In hundreds of public statements from November 4, 2020 to January 6, 2021, Mr. Trump repeatedly used phrases such as “we won the election” and “won it by a landslide”, and he said the election had been “rigged” and “stolen” by Democrats. Such claims have been proven false by courts and election officials across the country. Mr. Trump’s language later signaled to his supporters that they had to “fight” because “you will never take back our country with weakness.”

Some of Mr. Trump’s statements were outright lies (which he won). Some were his own feelings (“it’s a shame for our country”). Some were oblique calls to action (“if you don’t fight to save your country with all you have, there will not be a country left”).

In a 78-page brief submitted to the Senate on Monday, lawyers for Mr. Trump say he did not order his supporters to storm the Capitol.

“You usually aren’t going to find an executive telling you exactly what to do,” said Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale University who has written extensively on the similarities between Mr. Trump’s language and that of the leaders. authoritarian. Instead, there is a sort of “vague directive”, which followers refine and take action.

Autocratic movements throughout history have been distinguished by leaders repeating lies and suggestions that stir up anger among supporters, Dr Snyder said. “That’s exactly what Trump did.”

Mr. Trump’s defense team will claim that his false statements about the election are protected by the First Amendment and that trying a former president is unconstitutional.

Dozens of constitutional scholars from all walks of life have said the First Amendment claim was “legally frivolous” and should not prevent the Senate from condemning Mr. Trump. Legal scholars, including prominent conservatives, have rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that it is unconstitutional to hold a trial for the impeachment of a former president.

How Trump’s words echoed across Capitol Hill

The Times examined hundreds of hours of January 6 footage of protesters, including rioters who stormed the Capitol, and found evidence of how they mimicked – and amplified – the words of Mr. Trump.

For example, the collective chants of “Stop the Steal” turned into threats of violence against leaders like Vice President Mike Pence (“Hang Mike Pence!”) And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (“We are coming for you, Nancy ”).

A number of rioters said they did what they did because they believed that was what Mr. Trump wanted them to do.

Mr. Trump “called this crowd, gathered the crowd and kindled the flame of this attack,” said Republican 3rd Chamber Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming in a scathing statement explaining why she believed Mr. Trump should be impeached .

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Supreme Court will not hear appeal from former New York lawmaker Sheldon Silver

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday overturned the conviction of Sheldon Silver, the once powerful state assembly speaker in New York City, who was jailed last summer for federal corruption.

As is the custom of the court, his brief order gave no reason to dismiss the case. Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Judge Clarence Thomas, expressed his dissent, saying the court should have heard the case to clarify its rulings on corruption and extortion.

In recent years, the court has been skeptical of general interpretations of public corruption laws, arguing that they are not all-round devices for ensuring good government.

Mr Silver’s attorneys told judges prosecutors overdone his case by securing his conviction for accepting bribes in a real estate scheme without proving those who made the payments intended to ” influence particular official actions.

The New York Federal Court of Appeals, in upholding Mr Silver’s conviction for his role in the scheme, said it was enough for him to understand that he would take official action in exchange for the payments.

Mr Silver, a Democrat, was convicted in 2015 of accepting nearly $ 4 million in bribes and sentenced to 12 years in prison. But that conviction was overturned on appeal following a 2016 United States Supreme Court ruling that unanimously overturned the broadly similar conviction of Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court in the McDonnell case, said only formal and concrete government actions can be prosecuted under federal public corruption laws.

Mr. Silver was retried and sentenced in 2018. According to prosecutors, Mr. Silver had the real estate developers hired the Goldberg & Iryami law firm, which sent Mr. Silver part of his fees. Mr. Silver went on to support legislation that benefited developers.

Judge Richard C. Wesley, writing for the Second Circuit panel, said there was ample evidence that Mr. Silver understood that payments under the building plan were made in exchange for commitments to take formal action . But there was no requirement, Judge Wesley wrote, of a “meeting of minds” between those who made and received the payments for what those actions should be.

Urging the Supreme Court to hear Mr Silver’s case, his lawyers said the legal standard gave prosecutors too much power.

“The Second Circuit approved jury instructions which allowed a state official to be convicted of federal corruption on a jury’s ex post finding that the official had an unexpressed understanding (or misunderstanding) and one-sided that he was corrupt, ”the lawyers wrote. in their petition asking for a Supreme Court review. The decision, they wrote, “puts every official at the mercy of federal prosecutors, dismantling the work of this court to curb federal prosecutors.”

The brief cited the McDonnell case, in which Mr McDonnell was accused of accepting luxury goods, loans and vacations from a business executive in return for arranging meetings and urging subordinates to examine the demands of the executive.

He also cited last year’s decision in the “Bridgegate” case, in which the court unanimously overturned the convictions of two defendants in a New Jersey case. The defendants, former associates of then-governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, were accused of participating in a 2013 ploy intended to punish one of the governor’s political opponents that ended up creating four days of massive traffic jams on the George Washington. Bridge.

It was an abuse of power, the Supreme Court ruled, but not a federal crime.

Prosecutors in Mr. Silver’s case responded that previous Supreme Court rulings “confirm that the government must prove that the public official understood that he was accepting the bribe in exchange for an official act.” but do not require proof “that the bribe has come to an agreement with the official or shared the corrupt purpose of the official.” “

Mr. Silver, 76, has been an orator for more than two decades and has played a leading role in almost every major aspect of state policy. In the final days of his administration, President Donald J. Trump considered granting clemency to Mr Silver, who was sentenced to 78 months in prison, but decided not to do so after criticism New York Republicans.

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Supreme Court to Hear Case on Trump’s Work Requirements for Medicaid

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, a question that could become moot if the Biden administration removes the requirements.

In February, a panel of three unanimous judges from a federal appeals court in Washington struck down the requirements, which would have denied Medicaid health care coverage to poor people in Arkansas and New Hampshire unless whether they are working, volunteering or training for a job.

The appeals court said the approval of the requirement by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II was illegal – “arbitrary and capricious,” in legal jargon – because it had not considered how this would advance Medicaid’s goal of providing health care to the poor.

Congress had sought to “provide health care coverage to populations who otherwise could not afford it,” Judge David B. Sentelle wrote for the court. “Importantly, the secretary did not take this statutory objective into account in his analysis.

The case of Azar v. Gresham, No. 20-37, will be heard early next year.

Urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Jeffrey B. Wall, the acting solicitor general, said the government should be allowed to test new approaches to the Medicaid program, especially in light of its expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The appeals court ruling, he wrote, “threatens to hamper innovations that can make state Medicaid programs more effective and sustainable” and “casts a shadow over approved or pending demonstration projects. of several other States ”.

Mr Wall wrote that requirements similar to those blocked by the appeals court had been approved or were pending in 17 other states.

Lawyers for the challengers told judges the administration’s timing was particularly bad.

“During a pandemic in which 50 million Americans filed for unemployment and nearly 12 million lost employer-sponsored health insurance,” they wrote, “the secretary of health and social services is asking this tribunal to revive demonstration projects that would allow states to kick people out of Medicaid for not looking for and getting jobs that don’t exist. “

The rules require “able-bodied” adults to report to their state each month that they have worked, researched or trained for a job, attended school, or volunteered in order to maintain Medicaid coverage. Administration officials said that work is linked with good health and it helps people avoid poverty and government dependency.

The appeals court questioned this reasoning, saying it was not supported by the objectives of the law.

“The text of the law includes a primary objective, which is to provide health care coverage without any restrictions focused on healthy outcomes, financial independence or the transition to commercial coverage,” Justice Sentelle wrote.

In Arkansas, more than 18,000 people lost their coverage before the work was blocked. Some people with jobs lost their coverage because they didn’t know the rule or didn’t report their hours to the state.

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Hear from Indigenous Peoples

The indigenous peoples of the country now known as North America are often only raised in the past in elementary school classes. The point is, they are a growing population, a growing demographic in the country and in Congress, but unfortunately most Americans are misinformed about their history and current struggles. Podcasts can help fill in the gaps, and there are plenty of shows made by Indigenous people. You do not know where to start? Native podcast makers recommend their favorites.

Michael Kickingbear, registered member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and co-host of the current affairs show, “Indigenous opinion,“Recommended”Let’s talk native, with John Kane.“Each episode is primarily a monologue by Mohawk activist and educator John Kane, who always speaks ‘the truth in power on issues of political and social justice,’ Kickingbear said. To learn how Indigenous youth feel about the world around them, Mr. Kickingbear turns to “The Red Nation podcast,Which he called “my weekly dose of ‘energy and youth’ from Indian country. “

Another show on Mr. Kickingbear’s list is the mother-daughter podcast “Coffee with my mom.Host Kaniehtiio Horn, a First Nations actress, spends each episode interviewing her “radical militant mother,” Kahentinetha Horn, a prominent Mohawk activist and hilarious woman whose life has taken her on incredible adventures. “I love this podcast because of her mom’s experiences and the loose playful format,” Mr. Kickingbear said. “You really feel like you’re sitting in their living room as ‘Ma’ tells us stories from her life.

For an easily accessible introduction to the history of land theft in Native America, Andi Murphy recommends “This earth,From Crooked Media. Murphy, a Diné (Navajo) writer who has her own podcast (“Toasted Sister,” on Native American cuisine), calls “This Land” an “introductory course on Indian law and politics.” The narrative series draws in Indigenous legal experts and uses music to show how a 1999 murder case sparked a 2020 Supreme Court ruling on tribal sovereignty; Listening to him made Murphy “once again indignant at the atrocities committed against the Cherokee, and other tribes, during colonization.”

Connie Walker, who is Cree from the Okanese First Nation and a reporter for Spotify’s Gimlet Media, loves “The Secret Life of CanadaBy the CBC for the illusions it dispels about the country’s reputation for progressive politics. “For many people, especially indigenous and other marginalized communities, the truth is much more complicated,” she said. Ms Walker, who hosted the popular crime drama “Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo,” said the CBC show “shines a light on the story we didn’t learn in school and reveals some truths important which, in the age of reconciliation, “are crucial to understand and recognize.

One of the hosts of “The Secret Life of Canada”, Falen Johnson, finds inspiration for her own show in the series on the real crime “Return to Thunder Bay.Ms. Johnson, who is Mohawk and Tuscarora from Six Nations, the largest First Nations reserve in Canada, sees each episode of this series as a stimulating but necessary call to action. “The show highlights the corruption, systematic racism and violence in this northern Ontario city,” she said.

Matika Wilbur, photographer and member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes, was kept company by “The cutsAnd her host Sterlin Harjo during a lonely period of her life: while on the road to work on Project 562, a documentary series in which she set out to photograph at least one person from each of the 562 tribes recognized at the level federal in the United States. “I found myself playing the episodes when I was traveling long lonely roads or walking through airports because I was living in transit,” Ms. Wilbur said. “Sterlin’s jokes and the native people he had on the show all offered great solace. They made me feel like I was at home and less alone in spaces where I felt like the only Indigenous person in the room. Ms. Harjo’s work has inspired her own highly recommended podcast, “All my connections“:” I wanted our employees to feel represented in the pod space and to provide more opportunities for our employees to hear about the issues that concern them. “

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Supreme Court to hear arguments over fate of affordable care law

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday morning in connection with the third major challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the sprawling 2010 healthcare law that is President Barack Obama’s defining national legacy.

Tens of millions of Americans have obtained insurance coverage under the law, which includes popular provisions on guaranteed coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, emergency care, prescription drugs, and maternity care. . Republican state officials, backed by the Trump administration, say a key provision of the law is unconstitutional, and that means the whole law must fall.

The law has survived two previous challenges to the Supreme Court. In 2012, the court upheld the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain insurance or pay a penalty – the “individual warrant”. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. drafting the dominant view that the mandate was authorized by the power of Congress to assess taxes. He was joined by what was then the liberal wing of four members of the court.

In 2015, the court said the federal government could provide nationwide tax subsidies to help the poor and middle classes buy health insurance, dismissing the argument that the subsidies were only available in the provinces. States that had created markets, called exchanges, to allow people who lack insurance to purchase individual health plans. A decision to the contrary would have wreaked havoc on the insurance markets and undermined the law. The vote was 6 to 3, with the four Liberals, Chief Justice and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in 2018, in the majority.

Since the last major challenge, three new judges have joined the tribunal, all appointed by President Trump. One of them, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has publicly criticized the earlier decisions.

In a 2017 law review article, she questioned the Chief Justice’s 2012 opinion. “Chief Justice Roberts took the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the law,” Justice Barrett wrote.

In an interview after the 2015 ruling, she said, “I think dissent has the best of the legal argument.”

“That’s not to say the outcome isn’t better,” Judge Barrett said at the time. “It is clearly a good result that these millions of Americans do not lose their tax subsidies.”

The new case, California v. Texas, No. 19-840, was brought by Republican officials who said the warrant became unconstitutional after Congress in 2017 overturned the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance because it could no longer be justified as a tax. .

They went on to say that the warrant was a crucial feature of the law, which means all other parts of it should be deleted.

The challenge has largely succeeded in the lower courts. A Texas federal judge ruled that the entire law was invalid, but he postponed the effects of his ruling until the case can be appealed. In December, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans agreed the warrant was unconstitutional but declined to rule on the fate of the rest of the health bill, asking the lower court to reconsider the matter in more detail. .

Democratic States and the House, which intervened in the case to defend the health law, asked the Supreme Court to intervene, saying a swift ruling was needed to remove the uncertainty caused by the decisions of the lower courts.

Defenders of the law are hoping the Republican challengers can’t turn the table on three distinct legal arguments they would need to win: that they suffered the kind of harm that gives them standing to sue; whereas reducing the tax penalty to zero has made the individual mandate unconstitutional; and that the rest of the law cannot hold without the individual mandate.

Republicans also face the challenge of the enormous practical effects of overturning the law. That would increase the ranks of uninsured people in the United States by more than 20 million people – an increase of almost 70% – according to new estimates from the Urban Institute.

The biggest loss of coverage would be among low-income adults who became eligible for Medicaid under the law after all but a dozen states expanded the program to include them. But millions of people would also lose private insurance, including young adults who were legally allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, and families whose incomes were small enough to qualify. grants under the law that help them pay their monthly premiums.

Tuesday’s arguments, which will be heard by telephone, are scheduled for 80 minutes but will likely last two hours or more. Michael J. Mongan, the Solicitor General of California, representing a coalition of liberal-leaning states, will defend the law; Texas Solicitor General Kyle D. Hawkins, representing a coalition of conservative-leaning states, will urge judges to overturn it.

Two other lawyers will also appear: Jeffrey B. Wall, the acting U.S. solicitor general, will advocate for the Trump administration in support of Texas. And Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who successfully defended the law in 2012 as solicitor general in the Obama administration, will be the House advocate for California.