Headlines: October 27, 2020
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The Republican controlled Senate on Monday evening voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court with a vote of 52 to 48. All Republicans except for Senator Susan Collins voted to approve President Donald Trump’s nominee. All Democrats voted against it. The New York Times explained that, “It was the first time in 151 years that a justice was confirmed without a single vote from the minority party.” Barrett has replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the least experienced judge in at least 30 years. But Mr. Trump, in a ceremony in the Rose Garden that resembled a political rally, said Barrett, “is one of our nation’s most brilliant legal scholars, and she will make an outstanding justice on the highest court in our land.” Barrett was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas with all participants in close quarters wearing no masks.
Numerous issues await Barrett on the court in the coming days including rulings on the counting of absentee ballots in battleground states. Next week will also include hearings on cases important to LGBTQ rights and on November 10th the Affordable Care Act is on the agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who aggressively pushed through the confirmation process at record-speed, explained on Fox News that Barrett’s position on the court would be an asset to the Republican Party. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor warned about the dangerous political move to rush Barrett’s confirmation. Mr. Schumer was referring to the fact that Republicans refused to consider President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland to the court more than 200 days before the 2016 election, saying it was too close. Trump then appointed Neil Gorsuch when he was inaugurated. Barrett’s replacement of Ginsburg on the court turned that logic upside down. There is a strong possibility that Republicans may lose control of the Senate in the election, which Schumer alluded to when he said, “My colleagues will regret this for a lot longer than they think.”
Trump has now appointed 3 justices to the Supreme Court in less than 4 years. That’s one-third of the entire court. One of his appointees, Brett Kavanaugh, just issued an election-related opinion on Wisconsin’s ability to accept ballots. In a 5-3 ruling the court on Monday decided that absentee ballots may not be accepted in the battleground state after 8 pm on Tuesday November 3rd even if they have been postmarked before that date. In his ruling Kavanaugh claimed that including absentee ballots that arrive past 8 pm could, “potentially flip the results of an election.” Justice Elena Kagan countered that, “there are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted.” The ruling could have serious repercussions next week for other states as well. Already the Republican Party has appealed to the Supreme Court to apply that logic to mail-in and absentee ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, who slammed Barrett’s confirmation as “rushed,” and “unprecedented,” is visiting states other than the traditional election battlegrounds including Iowa and Georgia. Former Presidential candidate and billionaire Michael Bloomberg is also spending millions of dollars to push Biden’s campaign in Texas and Ohio. Voters in swing states appear to be most enthusiastic in early voting and across the nation an unprecedented 66 million people have already cast their ballots and some predict that 100 million early ballots will be cast before November 3rd.
Twenty former U.S. Attorneys have signed on to a letter backing Biden for President. All are Republican and were appointed by every GOP President from Eisenhower through to Trump himself. In their letter the signatories said that Trump is, “a threat to the rule of law in our country,” and that, “The President has clearly conveyed that he expects his Justice Department appointees and prosecutors to serve his personal and political interests.” Attorney General William Barr who has made clear that he prioritizes protecting Trump over the rule of law has proven their point in many instances. One of the latest instances is Barr decision to that the Justice Department would defend Trump in a defamation lawsuit over a rape allegation by writer E. Jean Carroll. But a federal judge on Tuesday just blocked the move. Ms. Carroll who accused Trump of raping her decades ago can now proceed with her lawsuit against Trump over denigrating comments he made against her in public.
Police in Philadelphia have just shot and killed a Black man named Walter Wallace who appeared to have been in the middle of a mental health crisis. In a video-taped incident Wallace is seen carrying what may be a knife in a neighborhood in broad daylight with community members nearby and a woman attempting to calm him down. Two police officers wielding guns shot him down from several feet away in the middle of the street after which passerby rushed to aid the victim. Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that the video of the shooting “presents difficult questions that must be answered.” Mass protests overnight in Philadelphia resulted in 30 officers with minor injuries.
Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and adviser is under fire for making racist comments during a Fox interview questioning whether Black Americans want to be “successful.” Kushner failed to mention that what many Black Americans and their allies want is an end to racist police violence and brutality. Five months after the mass national uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, hundreds of activists with Black Lives Matter are facing fines, and serious legal charges across the nation. Almost no police officers have faced charges.
The U.S.’s coronavirus infection rates are deeply troubling as Dr. Anthony Fauci warns, “No matter how you look at it, it’s not good news.” The nation’s foremost infectious diseases expert says that the worst months of the pandemic are already beginning with 80,000 new infections per day being recorded. But President Trump, who is attempting to defy reality, is saying the opposite. On Monday Trump said the coronavirus pandemic was “ending anyway.”
Finally, thousands of Californians have been forced to evacuate over high winds and the threat of fires spreading. Nearly 100,000 people near Irvine, in Southern California were given mandatory evacuation orders from the “Silverado” fire and two firefighters have been seriously injured. There are reports that a power line run by Edison may have sparked that fire.