By Robert A. Vella
We knew that the last few weeks before the November election would become increasingly tense and utterly insane as President Trump and the GOP pulled out all the stops to hold onto power, and that is exactly what is happening. As bad as things are now in the U.S., it will probably get worse. The Trump reelection campaign has put itself into a vicious circle of cascading events. The more it alienates voters with tyrannical behavior, the more tyrannical it must be to win. However, readers should be reassured that the harder Trump tries to rig the election outcome through unethical and illegal means, the more resistance he will encounter.
A good analogy is speeding into the wind. The faster something travels, the more air resistance is built-up and the more energy is expended. As more energy is expended, the increase in speed diminishes and more heat is generated. Eventually, air resistance becomes so great that it can overcome the structural integrity of the traveling body. This is why large meteors, such as the 2013 Chelyabinsk superbolide, explode in the atmosphere.
Let’s examine some of the means which Trump and Republicans are using, or could use, to rig the election.
- Disinformation campaigns: This technique, which the Trump campaign is vigorously employing in concert with Russia, is designed to obscure facts, disseminate falsehoods, confuse voters, and undermine confidence in American democracy. Although it worked effectively in 2016, it is having far less affect this year because voters are much more aware and because the sheer divisiveness of Donald Trump has already forced the vast majority of voters to make up their minds about him.
- Voter suppression: Republicans have been enacting various laws in the states to disenfranchise Democratic voters for many years now. Fortunately, the tide is turning. When Democrats won huge victories in the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost control over key swing-states and courts began reversing those laws after mounting evidence proved the existence of voter suppression.
- Election fraud: This involves any means taken to invalidate legitimate ballots, misreport actual votes. or – as former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen has warned recently, using the U.S. Postal Service to delay or block the delivery of mailed ballots. Again, GOP midterm losses two years ago have reduced their control in the states which administer U.S. elections. The USPS problem still is present, but a stunning federal court ruling yesterday might help to correct it (see the story later in this post).
- Election interference: Specifically, I’m identifying the possibility that Attorney General William Barr (a.k.a. “Heinrich Himmler”) might order the FBI or other federal law enforcement agencies to seize ballots or stop the counting of ballots under the pretense of some concocted legal rationale. Barr is certainly fascist enough to try this; but, if he did, there is little doubt that career DOJ officials would either directly oppose it or expose it publicly.
- Election security: There is a very real danger that hackers from Russia or the Trump campaign could break into some state election systems and cause untold damage. On the bright side, cyber-security experts and state officials are aware of this threat and that should increase the effectiveness of computer defenses.
- Contesting the election: If the initial election results are close, many Democrats are worried that Trump would contest the election in court and in the court of public opinion and use the confusion as an excuse to defiantly remain in the White House. In my opinion, this concern is way overblown. Although I’m sure Trump would try to do this, I don’t think it could work. Regardless of when the official winner is declared, the courts would likely affirm it and so would the U.S. Secret Service which is responsible for protecting the White House and the nation’s legitimate political leaders.
As you can see, each of those election rigging schemes are indeed plausible but also very problematic. The more Trump and the GOP wade into the filthy muck of tyranny, the more they will get in over their heads.
In last night’s edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report – certainly no bastion of liberal propaganda – said that President Trump’s Electoral College vote ceiling is below the 270 vote threshold for victory. That jives with my forecast earlier this week that Joe Biden’s Electoral College vote floor is 279 which is enough to win the presidency.
Here’s the news. Note that the CDC story also suggests that a similar politically-pressured coronavirus guideline bypassing the scientific approval process reportedly will be published sometime today, and the USPS story includes a statement from the ruling judge that the slowdown in mail deliveries is especially targeting urban areas in Midwest swing-states.
Olivia Troye, who worked as homeland security and counterterrorism aide to Pence for two years and served as his adviser on the Coronavirus Task Force, which he’s helmed, said Trump showed indifference at the beginning of the pandemic and the administration’s response cost lives.
“The virus was very unpredictable at the beginning, there were a lot of unknowns but towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn’t a matter of if COVID would become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when,” Troye, who left the White House in late July, said in an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump.
“But the president didn’t want to hear that, because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year, and how was this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success?”
She added, “It was shocking seeing the president saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything is OK when we know that it’s not. The truth is he doesn’t care about anyone else but himself.”
“When we were in a task force meeting, the president said, ‘maybe this COVID thing is a good thing, I don’t like shaking hands with people, I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people’,” she said in the ad.
“Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about. These are the people still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is.”
Last month’s controversial testing guidelines that suddenly deviated from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s previous stance to encourage Americans getting tested for the coronavirus were not formulated by the agency’s scientists and were posted on the CDC’s website without undergoing the normal scientific review process, the New York Times reports. Instead, the guidelines—which were revised to recommend that individuals exposed to the virus but not exhibiting symptoms should not get tested—were composed by the Department of Health and Human Services and posted to the health agency’s site over the objections of CDC scientists.
“The document contains ‘elementary errors’—such as referring to ‘testing for Covid-19,’ as opposed to testing for the virus that causes it—and recommendations inconsistent with the C.D.C.’s stance that mark it to anyone in the know as not having been written by agency scientists, according to a senior C.D.C. scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a fear of repercussions,” according to the Times. “The information comes mere days after revelations that political appointees at H.H.S. meddled with the C.D.C.’s vaunted weekly reports on scientific research.”
A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday granted a request from 14 states to temporarily block operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service that have been blamed for a slowdown in mail delivery, saying President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are “involved in a politically motivated attack” on the agency that could disrupt the 2020 election.
Stanley A. Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, said policies put in place under DeJoy “likely will slow down delivery of ballots” this fall, creating a “substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.”
In a written order released Thursday night, Bastian laid out more than a page of specific prohibitions on the Postal Service until a final judgment is reached in the case — restrictions that could broadly affect the agency’s services. He connected the USPS policies to Trump’s broadsides against mail voting, saying the actions amount to “voter disenfranchisement.”
“It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Services’ changes is an intentional effort on the part the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections,” he wrote.
Despite the pandemic, the “historically high” stakes this election cycle have given voters plenty of reasons to cast a ballot, Perry suggested. “The people see such a huge gulf between the two candidates,” and for supporters of the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, one of his greatest draws is that he isn’t Trump.
After a series of polls that signal a competitive race in Texas, Trump is now only “slightly favored” to win the famously red state, according to the political forecaster FiveThirtyEight. In recent years, Texas’s historically low voter participation has been surging, and Clouston anticipates the election will see record-breaking turnout.
From: Justice Department explored possibility of charging Portland officials amid unrest [clarification by The Secular Jurist]
The Justice Department explored whether it could pursue either criminal or civil rights charges against city officials in Portland, Oregon, after clashes erupted there night after night between law enforcement and demonstrators, a department spokesperson said Thursday.
The revelation that federal officials researched whether they could levy criminal or civil charges against the officials — exploring whether their rhetoric and actions may have helped spur the violence in Portland — underscores the larger Trump administration’s effort to spotlight and crack down on protest-related violence [and to use the federal government to punish its political opponents]. The majority of the mass police reform demonstrations nationwide have been peaceful.
Justice Department officials disputed news reports that Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors in the department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring [sedition] charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing some residents to establish a protest zone this summer.
Study: Ending census early will cost Florida, Montana seats [it could also result in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina losing $500 million annually in federal funding while California, Ohio, or Idaho could gain congressional seats]
The complaint doesn’t name the doctor who allegedly performed the procedures, but several attorneys representing the women have identified him as Dr. Mahendra Amin, of Douglas, Georgia.
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who has been leading the congressional response to the allegations, said the complaint also raises questions about how ICE ensures that detainees consent to medical procedures. She said Homeland Security agents have a long history of forcing immigrants to sign all kinds of documents — dropping immigration court appeals, submitting to voluntary deportations — without having a translator present or fully understanding what they’re signing. Those questionable consent procedures would be even more disturbing, she said, if they led to partial or full hysterectomies.
A 2019 USA TODAY investigation into the federal government’s increasing use of private prison companies and local jails to house civil immigration detainees revealed systemic problems in the medical care provided to those detainees. An analysis of inspection reports highlighted problems at several facilities and court documents showed multi-million dollar settlements paid to detainees who were mistreated while in custody.
Immigrant attorneys and advocates have been flagging concerns about medical mistreatment at the Irwin center for years. The center is located in Ocilla, Georgia, a city of roughly 3,000 residents almost 200 miles south of Atlanta. It housed about 650 detainees under ICE custody as of Sept. 8.
Democrats to investigate claims of questionable hysterectomies at Georgia detention center [Amin was previously accused by state and federal authorities of falsely billing Medicare and Medicaid in an investigation that led to a $520,000 settlement in 2015]