Friday, July 15, 2022

Something to Know - 15 July

No spectacular news events, but there is some news.   Much of it is embedded with HCR's column this morning.    I will be away for several days on a venture that may be called a trip; all the way to Santa Monica, all of 50 miles away.   Something to Know will not be available since I will only have my smartphone and iPad, and I need my desktop to do it right.  Visiting family, and will enjoy some milder beach weather instead of the rising heat of our Inland Empire as this extreme east wing of LA County calls Claremont.

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, a Trump appointee, yesterday sent a surprising letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and its House counterpart. The letter said that the Department of Homeland Security had notified Cuffari's office that "many U.S. Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program. The USSS erased those text messages after OIG [Office of Inspector General] requested records of electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6." Further, the letter said, DHS personnel had repeatedly refused to produce records without first showing them to attorneys, which had created long delays and confusion over "whether all records had been produced."  

In other words, an inspector general thought the Secret Service had deleted texts from agents on January 5 and 6 after being instructed to produce them. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) chairs both the House Homeland Security committee and the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Cuffari's letter sent the information about deleted texts directly to the top.

The Secret Service immediately responded that "the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false. In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect—whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts."

But this information raises questions about the role of Secret Service members in the events of January 6. Trump blurred the lines between the Secret Service and the presidency when he appointed Secret Service assistant director Anthony Ornato his deputy chief of staff in December 2019. We know Vice President Mike Pence refused to get into a car driven by a Secret Service agent on January 6, apparently concerned that the driver might not follow his instruction, and that President-elect Biden had to be assigned a new Secret Service team out of concerns that the presidential detail was allied with Trump. And last week, the Trump-appointed director of the Secret Service, James Murray, resigned.

The only good news here for Republicans is that the outrage over these deleted (or lost) texts has distracted from the firestorm over the 10-year-old child from Ohio forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion after being raped. That story, reported by the doctor who performed the abortion, was picked up by national news and by President Joe Biden, who asked people to "imagine being that little girl" in a speech about abortion rights. 

Ohio's attorney general Dave Yost told the Fox News Channel that he doubted the story because he had not heard that there had been any report of a rape, although as journalist Magdi Semrau noted on Twitter, sexual assault, especially sexual assault of a child, is rarely reported. Yost later said "there is not a damn scintilla of evidence" that such a thing happened. Right-wing media immediately began to assert that the story was false, and the Indiana attorney general, Todd Rokita, went further, telling Fox News Channel host Jesse Watters that his office would investigate the doctor who provided abortion care to the child, suggesting she had not filed a report on the case as legally required. 

Today, law enforcement officers in Columbus, Ohio, arrested a 27-year-old man who confessed to raping the child. In addition, Politico found the required report filed correctly. A lawyer for the doctor released a statement saying the doctor "took every appropriate and proper action in accordance with the law and both her medical and ethical training as a physician. She followed all relevant policies, procedures, and regulations in this case, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients. She has not violated any law, including patient privacy laws, and she has not been disciplined by her employer. We are considering legal action against those who have smeared my client."

When this Supreme Court, packed by former president Trump and the Republican Senators with three new "originalists," handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health decision on June 24, 2022, many people observed that the dog had caught the car. Republicans have turned out evangelical voters for years with the promise of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationally, but the truth is that Roe was popular, and legal abortion hid the many terrible events that led to its legalization in the first place. According to one estimate, in the 1960s there were between 200,000 and 1.2 million illegal abortions annually, which created such a public health crisis that doctors set out to decriminalize abortion and keep that medical issue between a woman and her doctor. 

Now, right off the bat of the Dobbs decision, Americans have to grapple with precisely the sort of case that dramatically illustrates why people require abortion rights. 

In response, some anti-abortion activists have doubled down on the idea that no abortion is acceptable. Lawyer Jim Bopp, who is the general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, told Megan Messerly and Adam Wren of Politico that under the laws he would like to enact, the 10-year-old victim "would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child." 

Since few people can stomach the idea of a 10-year-old rape victim forced to bear a child, other anti-abortion activists are suddenly saying that such an abortion is not an abortion at all because it is necessary to save the life of the mother, although many of the new state laws make no such exception. They have also suddenly begun to say that abortion care for an ectopic pregnancy, which is never viable and which poses a deadly threat to the pregnant person, is not an abortion either. In both cases, this is a sudden carve out that is inaccurate: both of these medical procedures are abortion, and both are illegal now in certain states. 

President Biden responded to the Dobbs decision with federal rules clarifying that under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, doctors in hospitals that use federal money must provide appropriate treatment to patients experiencing ectopic pregnancy, pregnancy loss, or other life-threatening conditions, or transfer them to places that will, "irrespective of any state laws or mandates that apply to specific procedures."  

But Republicans are pushing for even greater restrictions over abortion. Today, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, who was indicted seven years ago for felony securities fraud but has yet to stand trial, sued the Biden administration over that rule, claiming that it is an "attempt to use federal law to transform every emergency room in this country into a walk-in abortion clinic." 

Meanwhile, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today blocked an attempt by Senate Democrats to pass a law protecting the right of women to cross state lines to get abortion care. Apparently unaware that one of the key hallmarks of an authoritarian state is its refusal to let citizens cross borders, Lankford indicated he was willing to keep pregnant people from crossing state lines. "Does that child in the womb have the right to travel in their future?" Lankford said. "Do they get to live?"

And although the Supreme Court justified the Dobbs decision with the argument that it would simply send the question of abortion back to the states, a federal abortion ban is already on the table. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) has introduced HR 705, the so-called Heartbeat Protection Act, to make abortion illegal everywhere. 

Today, when asked if Democrats would compromise over abortion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said "We're not going to negotiate a woman's right to choose." She added, "Republicans have sometimes said on the floor that Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope. Yes I do, and I think any Pope would agree." 

Pelosi has five children. 

That the extremism of those now in charge of the Republican Party might convince voters to crush the party in the midterms is evident in today's responses to that extremism. On the same day that Trump teased the idea that he might announce that he's running for president in 2024 before the midterms, a group of conservative intellectuals released a document proving with extensive evidence that the 2020 election was not stolen, Trump lost it. 

That document, "Lost, Not Stolen," destroys the Big Lie but does not call for getting rid of the many new state laws based on that lie, laws that seem designed to cement the rule of Republicans in certain states regardless of the will of the majorities in those states. It also doesn't discuss the independent state legislature doctrine, which would enable state legislatures to name whatever slate of presidential electors they wished, regardless of the will of the voters, a doctrine that would have given Trump a second term and that the Supreme Court has said it will consider. 

It appears that old-line conservatives would like to push Trump offstage, but his role in the January 6 insurrection got more attention today when a police officer from Washington, D.C., corroborated the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows's aide, who said she had heard that Trump attacked a Secret Service agent on January 6.

Trump and his children Don Jr. and Ivanka were scheduled to testify under oath tomorrow in New York City in the New York attorney general's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, but that testimony will be put off because of the death today of Ivana Trump, Trump's first wife and mother of his three eldest children. Ivana Trump, 73, was found dead at the foot of a stairway. Trump announced her death on his social media network, calling her "a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life." 

At the bottom of the announcement was a button to donate to Trump's political action committee.


The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

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