WASHINGTON -- There are leading candidates and dark horses. There are potential roadblocks from progressives and conservatives. And there are competing factions hoping to be part of the next president's inner circle, all jockeying for influence.President-elect Joe Biden moved quickly this past week to name the first two members of his Cabinet, picking one of his closest confidants to be the nation's top diplomat and choosing an immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security for the first time.But as he fills out the rest of his team in the days and weeks ahead, the task will become more complicated, forcing him to navigate tricky currents of ideology, gender, racial identity, party affiliation, friendship, competence, personal background and past employment.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesAides to Biden who are managing the selection process are revealing little about whom he intends to choose. And yet, as is typical in Washington in the early days of a transition, the names of those the president-elect is said to be considering are a frequent source of discussion. This time, the gossip is spreading via Zoom calls, Twitter posts and encrypted text messages sent by lawmakers, lobbyists and political consultants."I can assure you, there will be more Cabinet announcements in the weeks ahead, so buckle up for December," Jennifer Psaki, a senior transition adviser, told reporters this past week.Whom Biden will tap to be the next attorney general is among the most talked about -- and politically fraught -- decisions that the president-elect will make, as civil rights issues roil the country and some Democrats expect investigations into President Donald Trump and his associates.Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration, had long been considered the front-runner. Biden is close to her and has told friends that he could imagine her as the nation's top law enforcement official. But some advisers fear that Republicans would block her nomination because of her refusal to defend Trump's first travel ban and her role in the early stages of the investigations into his campaign and associates.Biden could instead pick Lisa Monaco, the former homeland security adviser for President Barack Obama who was a finalist in 2013 to be FBI director. And like Yates, she worked well with Biden when he was vice president.But both women are up against Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor who served as the head of the department's civil rights division in the Clinton administration and would be the second Black man to be attorney general.The president-elect's aides see civil rights issues as a far more deep-seated problem than simply one that has arisen because of Trump. The aides believe that Patrick's experience at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. and his stewardship of the department's civil rights division positions him to take on that issue.Others around the president-elect are not eager to reward Patrick, who jumped into the Democratic nomination last year to challenge Biden as a politically moderate answer to the party's more liberal candidates. Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, is also under consideration for attorney general.Biden has also not yet announced his pick to lead the Pentagon, despite having introduced other members of his national security team.One candidate for the job, according to people familiar with Biden's deliberations, is Michele Flournoy, a senior defense official for President Bill Clinton and Obama. But her lock on the job may have slipped in recent days, as some progressive groups have attacked her work at consulting firms that have represented military contractors and foreign governments."Her employment at these two companies as well as her time as a paid board member for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton creates potential conflicts of interest," said Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight, an ethics watchdog group.If Biden does not choose Flournoy, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a former deputy energy secretary and National Security Council member, and Lloyd Austin III, a retired Army general and head of the U.S. Central Command, are possibilities, people close to the process said. The Biden team could also tap Jeh Johnson, who served as a top Pentagon lawyer before becoming secretary of homeland security under Obama.Should Biden tap Yates for attorney general, it may enhance Johnson's prospects for the Pentagon because otherwise the traditional top four Cabinet department posts -- Justice, State, Defense and Treasury -- will have gone to white nominees.Republicans in the Senate will try to reject some of Biden's nominees. But his team is just as worried about opposition from Democrats.Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director and one of the two leading candidates to be nominated to that position, has drawn the ire of liberals for his outspoken defense of the CIA's interrogation program."Mike Morell wrote that torture was effective and moral," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "He's wrong on both counts."Thomas Donilon, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration, is also a leading possibility to take over the CIA. His brother, Mike Donilon, is one of Biden's closest political advisers. Others under consideration are Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence who was pushed out by Trump; Vincent Stewart, a retired lieutenant general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a former CIA analyst and White House national security aide.Aides to the president-elect said Wednesday that he intended to announce more members of his economic team this coming week after choosing Janet Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, to be his Treasury secretary.Biden could pick Roger Ferguson Jr., an economist who was vice chair of the Federal Reserve and was under serious consideration for the Treasury job, to lead the National Economic Council or a new board overseeing the recovery from the recession.Picking Ferguson, who is Black, to lead the council would help Biden keep a promise to make his administration look like the rest of America. Other names under consideration for the position are white men, including Bruce Reed, a former chief of staff to Biden, and Austan Goolsbee, an economist who was chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Gene Sperling, a veteran economic adviser dating to the Clinton administration, is another possibility, as is Brian Deese, who was deputy director of the National Economic Council under Obama.Reed, a noted centrist and deficit hawk, was Clinton's domestic policy director and helped develop the welfare overhaul that Clinton signed into law requiring work and setting time limits.He has come under fire from prominent liberal members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who also oppose his consideration to lead the Office of Management and Budget, which helps the White House determine economic priorities. But blocking Reed, who traveled with Biden for much of the campaign, from the budget office post may only ensure he winds up in the West Wing, where the president-elect could make him a senior adviser.To lead the Agriculture Department, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress, is pushing for Rep. Marcia Fudge, an African American Democrat from Ohio. Clyburn, an early and important backer of Biden, has said the department should be focused more on hunger.But traditionalists eager to keep a voice from rural America in the post are advocating Heidi Heitkamp, a former senator from North Dakota, or Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who served as agriculture secretary for Obama.To coordinate the response to the pandemic, Jeffrey Zients, who was director of the National Economic Council under Obama, could become Biden's "COVID czar." That job could also go to Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general who helps lead Biden's transition panel on the virus.Mary Nichols, California's climate and clean air regulator, is seen as the top candidate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. And there is a growing campaign to persuade Biden to name a Native American as interior secretary. Among the names he is considering: Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., a rising star in Democratic politics; and Michael Connor, the former deputy interior secretary in the Obama administration. Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, is also a candidate.The possibility that Ernest Moniz, Obama's energy secretary, could reprise his role troubles environmental groups who believe that Moniz did not do enough to steer the country away from fossil fuels. Biden could also turn to Arun Majumdar, who runs the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff and the former mayor of Chicago, is a candidate to run the Transportation Department but is disliked by some liberals for how he handled police issues as mayor. Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, is another top candidate.Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.; Alvin Brown, the former mayor of Jacksonville, Florida; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, are being discussed to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico is interested in becoming secretary of Health and Human Services and would be another Latino in the Cabinet.Some allies of Biden's on Capitol Hill worry that Biden's choices for the biggest jobs in government look too much like professional staff, with no big personalities who may be better suited to helping drive policy. He could rectify that if he picked one of his Democratic primary rivals -- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts -- to lead the Labor Department or the Commerce Department. Liberals would cheer such a nomination, but transition advisers have told Biden that confirmation of either would be difficult.In an interview with NBC News, Biden strongly hinted that he was likely to leave both senators where they are."Taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House -- particularly a person of consequence -- is a really difficult decision that would have to be made," Biden said. "I have a very ambitious, very progressive agenda. And it's going to take really strong leaders in the House and Senate to get it done."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
The meeting at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix is not a hearing of the Legislature as Finchem and Trump campaign's legal team have cast it.
President-elect Joe Biden has no shortage of ideas about how to transform caregiving. One striking feature of his team's plan: It does not address elder care separately from child care, or divide plans to support family caregivers from those for paid caregivers. Rather, it takes on Medicaid benefits for older and disabled adults, preschool for toddlers and better jobs for home care workers, all in one ambitious, $775 billion-over-a-decade package."It approaches the care economy in a holistic way, across the age spectrum," said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which has long pushed many of those measures. "It's a big breakthrough."Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesThe same families who need child care in order to stay employed are often responsible for aging relatives, she pointed out, and many work as paid caregivers themselves.Elements of the Biden plan, announced last summer, will sound familiar. The campaign for paid family leave, whether for childbirth or for care of older parents, goes back decades. So does the ongoing effort to rebalance Medicaid, making it more able to cover caregiving at home, where most older adults hope to stay, rather than in the nursing homes they dread.But the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis have spotlighted the halting, fragmented way the United States approaches these issues, compared with other industrialized democracies.Advocates see this emergency as both ruinous for families and workers, and as an opportunity to tackle long-deferred needs. Policies like converting the anemic federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which mandates only unpaid leave, into 12 weeks of paid leave, as Biden has proposed, could help propel the nation's labor force back to work."Working adults are buckling under the pressure of addressing child care on one hand and care for elders on the others," Poo said. "Women are leaving the labor market because they have impossible choices.""What was important to people became urgent," added Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center. "There are periods where acceleration feels possible, and this is one of them."Despite its integrated approach, the Biden plan does call for certain programs most likely to benefit older people and their caregivers. For example, it proposes a tax credit for as much as $5,000 to reimburse families for expenses associated with unpaid caregiving."It helps the people in the middle, stuck between Medicaid" -- which primarily benefits the very low-income -- "and those with the resources to pay for long-term care," said C. Grace Whiting, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving.An AARP survey last year found that families spent about $7,400 out of pocket annually, and close to $13,000 if the caregivers lived an hour or more away from the relatives they helped. In another AARP study, about one-quarter of family caregivers reported taking on more debt and depleting their savings.Whiting ticked off some costs the credit might cover: "Household expenses. Paid help. Home modifications. Remote devices to monitor safety. Equipment like hearing aids. Medical expenses not covered by other payers."The Biden plan would also give family members Social Security credits for the time they spend out of the workforce caring for loved ones.An Urban Institute analysis found that this change would most benefit lower-income workers, by crediting them with earnings equal to half the average national monthly wage, in addition to their other earnings, for every month in which they provided 80 or more hours of unpaid care.One of the Biden plan's most far-reaching components for seniors concerns Medicaid. This state and federal program underwrites most long-term care, but it has historically spent more on nursing homes than on so-called home and community-based services. About 800,000 people linger on state waiting lists for home care, sometimes for years, the Biden team has said.The shift to home services, which now represents more than half of Medicaid spending on long-term care, has been "vastly inadequate," Poo said. "It's still not mandatory for states to offer home and community-based services as an option."The Biden plan vows to eliminate the wait list, then enhance federal contributions to allow states to develop more community alternatives, which are generally less expensive than nursing home care.Finally, it tackles the issues that have led to persistent churn in the mostly female workforce that provides elder care and child care, including low wages, lack of benefits like health insurance and sick leave, and the need for further training.That effort, the plan notes, will support unionization and collective bargaining. "The solution cannot be caregivers at poverty levels with unfair working conditions," Goss Graves said.The Biden team asserts that the nation can pay the tab for this vast undertaking over 10 years, by rolling back tax breaks for real estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and increasing tax compliance for other high earners.It also argues that the plan will create 3 million new caregiving and education jobs, and increase employment by 5 million by allowing unpaid caregivers (most of them women, again) to reenter the workforce.Debate is certain to ensue over the price tag nonetheless, given a fragile economy, and over whether these plans represent the best solutions to the nation's child care and elder care needs.As Whiting pointed out, "the tax credit puts money back in caregivers' pockets, improving their well-being." But it won't benefit lower income families who don't pay much income tax, or any, unless it's made "refundable," so that a caregiver could receive a reimbursement check for more than she paid the IRS.Social Security credits would most likely have greater impact, said Richard Johnson, an economist who directs the Urban Institute Program on Retirement Policy. One drawback, however, is that "it doesn't help caregivers until they begin collecting Social Security," he said. "The tax credit could provide immediate help."Of course, the political odds of realizing all these ideas, or any of them, remain highly uncertain, even if the Senate acquires a slender Democratic majority. "The question will be, 'Do we have the political will to make it happen?'" Whiting said. Some Medicaid changes will also require agreement from state governments.The plan does not delve into details about how the administration would carry out all these policies, and the Biden transition team did not make a policy adviser available to discuss the president-elect's goals and strategies. But some aspects of the plan -- efforts to pass a caregiver tax credit, for instance -- have previously drawn congressional sponsors from both parties."There's growing recognition of the essential help provided by family caregivers, and an emerging consensus among both Democrats and Republicans that they need more support," Johnson said. "So the time might be right to enact meaningful federal legislation."Supporters of the plan see Biden as a president with an unusually personal understanding of caregiving. He has been a single father and a caregiver both to injured children and to a grown son with terminal cancer. In announcing his caregiving plan, he also mentioned caring for his parents, when they were hospice patients, in his home.Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris was the principal sponsor of the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights last year. "They're the right people to lead the conversation," Whiting said.But as veterans of the effort to promote a more expansive federal approach to caregiving, advocates like Goss Graves have also developed a well-honed realism. "Things don't happen on their own," she said. "I'd feel hopeful, but I'd also be preparing to get to work."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign credits its success in Arizona to the immigrant-rights and grassroots organizations that have been mobilizing Latinos for nearly two decades. The fruits of their labor — in triple-digit heat, no less — paid off in this traditionally conservative state, where changing demographics and suburban voters turning out to oppose President Donald Trump also worked in Biden's favor.
WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency was rushing to complete one of its last regulatory priorities, aiming to obstruct the creation of air- and water-pollution controls far into the future, when a senior career scientist moved to hobble it.Thomas Sinks directed the EPA's science advisory office and later managed the agency's rules and data around research that involved people. Before his retirement in September, he decided to issue a blistering official opinion that the pending rule -- which would require the agency to ignore or downgrade any medical research that does not expose its raw data -- will compromise American public health."If this rule were to be finalized it would create chaos," Sinks said in an interview in which he acknowledged writing the opinion that had been obtained by The New York Times. "I thought this was going to lead to a train crash and that I needed to speak up."Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesWith two months left of the Trump administration, career EPA employees find themselves where they began, in a bureaucratic battle with the agency's political leaders. But now, with the Biden administration on the horizon, they are emboldened to stymie Trump's goals and to do so more openly.The filing of a "dissenting scientific opinion" is an unusual move; it signals that Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the EPA, and his politically appointed deputies did not listen to the objections of career scientists in developing the regulation. More critically, by entering the critique as part of the official Trump administration record on the new rule, Sinks' dissent will offer Joe Biden's EPA administrator a powerful weapon to repeal the so-called "secret science" policy.EPA career employees this month also quietly emailed out the results of a new study concluding that the owners of half a million diesel pickup trucks had illegally removed their emissions control technology, leading to huge increases in air pollution. And some senior EPA staff members have engaged in back-channel conversations with the president-elect's transition team as they waited for Trump to formally approve the official start of the presidential transition, two agency employees acknowledged.Current and former EPA staff and advisers close to the transition said Biden's team has focused on preparing a rapid assault on the Trump administration's deregulatory legacy and reestablishing air and water protections and methane emissions controls."They are focused like a laser on what I call the 'Humpty Dumpty approach,' which is putting the agency back together again," said Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator who served in the Obama administration.The transition team is particularly focused on renewing efforts to tackle climate change, which had been crushed by the Trump administration and mocked by Wheeler as little more than "virtue signaling" to foreign countries. There also are plans to revamp scientific advisory boards that Wheeler and his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, had stacked with allies of private industry and purged of many academic scientists."They seem hyper-focused on what it's going to take to get things back on track," said Chris Zarba, former director of the EPA's science advisory board, adding, "I think they're going to do a full reset."Racing against those efforts is Wheeler, who has a long list of priorities that aides and confidants said he is determined to complete before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. He has also maneuvered legally to erect time-consuming hurdles that Biden will have to clear to unwind some Trump administration policies.At the top of Wheeler's to-do list is finalizing the science rule, officially called "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science."Under it, the agency would have to dismiss or give less weight to scientific studies that fail to release all their raw data to the public. Wheeler says the rule's opponents prefer that regulatory decisions be made in "a back room, a proverbial smoke filled room."But thousands of medical and scientific organizations say the plan would cripple the EPA's ability to create new air and water protections because people who participate in epidemiological or long-term health studies that examine exposure to toxins typically take part only if their personal health information is kept private.The EPA under Wheeler has argued that it can create data protections to secure personal information like home addresses and medical records. But Sinks, who was the only agency scientist who worked to establish that data security, said the agency lacks the technical expertise and funding to succeed."Human subjects research is the most predictive data for establishing the human health impact from environmental exposures," Sinks wrote, adding, "Any rule or guidance that diminishes or removes high quality research from consideration in rule making results in poorly developed rules."Thomas A. Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served as EPA science adviser in the Obama administration, expressed amazement at Sinks' dissent."It speaks volumes about the failure of the process and the failure of the administration to listen not just to this one person but to the broader scientific leadership in the United States," he said. Burke called the rule "a very thinly-veiled dream rule for polluters."James Hewitt, a spokesman for the EPA, said in a statement that Sinks' objections were "irrelevant." He accused Sinks, without presenting evidence, of failing to follow agency "protocol for raising concerns" and also said Sinks did not read the most recent draft of the rule before filing his dissent. Hewitt also did not explain why such a high-ranking career scientist was not provided the final draft of the rule."The purpose of the science transparency rule is to codify internal procedural requirements for how the EPA will consider the availability of data that it relies upon in developing its final significant regulatory actions and influential scientific information," Hewitt said.Wheeler in these final months also sidestepped a promise he made to the EPA inspector general to address accusations from more than 250 employees about political interference with science under the Trump administration.Wheeler had agreed to determine the reasons for the concerns about a culture of disregard for scientific integrity and "tone at the top" of the agency by Sept. 30. He did not.Instead he issued a memo in November affirming the agency's support for its 2012 scientific integrity policy. But even that document was watered down. The final version eliminated language that assured science would occur "without political interference, coercion of scientists or regard to risk management implications," according to a document of track changes reviewed by The New York Times.Hewitt in a statement said that memo did not affect the underlying scientific integrity policy.Of Wheeler's broader agenda over the next two months, he said, "EPA continues to advance this administration's commitment to meaningful environmental progress while moving forward with our regulatory reform agenda."The EPA also is expected to finalize in the coming weeks a rule on industrial soot pollution, which is linked to respiratory diseases, including those caused by the coronavirus. The rule is expected to leave in place a 2012 standard on fine soot from smokestacks and tailpipes, known as PM 2.5, ignoring the EPA's own scientists, who wrote last year that the existing rule contributes to about 45,000 deaths per year from respiratory diseases, and that tightening it could save about 10,000 of those lives.In April, a study published by researchers at Harvard linked long-term soot exposure and COVID-19 death rates. The study found that a person living for decades in a county with high levels of fine particulate matter is 15% more likely to die from the coronavirus than someone in a region with one unit less of the fine particulate pollution.And last month, the agency finalized a rule that creates a lengthy new legal process to overturn or withdraw certain policy directives known as "guidance documents," which give federal agencies direction on the specifics of how to enforce laws.Such guidance documents can give an administration some license to interpret laws in ways that advance their policy agenda. For example, the EPA during the Trump administration has published a guidance document that allows oil and gas companies to release flares from their wells for up to 15 minutes at a time before regulations apply -- a process that releases methane, a powerful planet-warming greenhouse gas.Another guidance document allows polluting entities with several adjacent polluting buildings on the same site, such as power plants and factories, to report the separate buildings as smaller individual pollution sources, rather than report the total pollution levels of the overall site. That could allow the polluters to avoid pollution control requirements that would be triggered by reporting the larger amount of pollution attributed to the larger site.These types of documents are not legally binding, but they do stand as the official policy of a government agency until they are formally withdrawn or changed. Under the new guidance document rule, the EPA would have to formally issue a new regulation in order to withdraw the guidance -- a lengthy legal process that can take months or even years, meaning that until it is complete, those Trump guidance documents will stand as the official policies of the Biden administration.Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard and a former adviser to the Obama administration, called the rule a "little IED," referring to an improvised explosive device, or roadside bomb, aimed at slowing a Biden administration's plans to overturn Trump's rules."Shenanigans like these are what awaits the Biden team," she said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
In Collin County, Texas, a suburban area northeast of Dallas where Democrats hoped for a blue wave on Election Day, state Rep. Jeff Leach attacked his Democratic challenger as an "extreme anti-police zealot."But Leach also ran an ad featuring a man who spent 13 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, and who praised the candidate's record on criminal justice reform. "I'm a Democrat; Jeff Leach is a Republican," said the man, Christopher Scott. "He's a person we cannot lose in our state."The ad was telling: In an election season in which no one seemed to agree on anything, and Republicans up and down the ballot sought to link Democrats to lawlessness, criminal justice reform was the rare issue upon which the two parties seemed to find some common ground.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesLeach, who kept his seat, was one of a number of candidates who used the issue to appeal to the political center and prove that they could work across the aisle.In Oklahoma City, a Republican state senator and congressional challenger, Stephanie Bice, spoke of giving low-level offenders "a second chance." In Charleston, South Carolina, Nancy Mace, another Republican vying for a House seat, touted a state law she sponsored that barred the shackling of pregnant women during labor. Both women defeated Democratic incumbents in highly competitive districts.In a video presenting his closing argument for maintaining Republican dominance of the Senate, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, chose three issues -- tax cuts, judicial appointments and criminal justice reform.McConnell had resisted bringing the First Step Act, which expanded release opportunities for federal prisoners, to the floor under former President Barack Obama and did so during the Trump administration only under extreme pressure.Its passage firmly established the allure of reform and is now widely cited as President Donald Trump's most significant bipartisan achievement.Activists who have been pushing to rein in the excesses of a highly punitive system hope the resulting glow will help advance their agenda, which includes such measures as banning no-knock warrants, making police disciplinary records public and rethinking lengthy sentences for juveniles.They also hope that voters will distinguish between calls to "defund the police," which Republicans used to vigorously attack Democrats, and bipartisan efforts to improve accountability and fairness. Trump kept the two issues separate, attacking Democrats relentlessly for what he said was their failure to support law enforcement, while running a Super Bowl ad about a woman to whom he gave clemency."I actually think the winning argument was you can be for law and order, and you can be for second chances," said Holly Harris, the executive director of the Justice Action Network, a nonpartisan advocacy group. "You can be supportive of the police and also think the punishment should fit the crime."This nuance does not always play with voters. In Georgia, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, trashed her Republican opponent, Rep. Doug Collins, for his support of criminal justice reform, edging him out to face the Democratic challenger, Raphael Warnock, in a runoff.But outside of bitter political contests, criminal justice reform offers something for just about everyone: social justice crusaders who point to yawning racial disparities, fiscal conservatives who decry the extravagant cost of incarceration, libertarians who think the government has criminalized too many aspects of life, and Christian groups who see virtue in mercy and redemption.At the federal level, both parties have proposed police accountability bills. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has recently signaled that he is open to reinstating parole for federal prisoners, which was eliminated during the tough-on-crime 1980s. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reduce incarceration and supports abolishing mandatory minimum sentences and expanding mental health and drug treatment.Relatively few voters ranked the criminal justice system at the top of their list of concerns, even after the killing of George Floyd in May thrust policing into the national spotlight.But patient work by advocates, buy-in from conservative groups and the United States' position as a global leader in incarceration have gradually spread the message that the system is broken, and made fixing it a cause with broad appeal.A wide array of criminal justice measures did well on the ballot, including increasing police oversight, legalizing drugs and restoring voting rights to those with felony records.Fewer Americans than ever believe the system is "not tough enough," according to a recent Gallup poll. And in a sign of how much attitudes have changed since lawmakers boasted of locking people up and throwing away the key, Trump and Biden sparred over who had let more people out of prison.The fact that it is a niche issue may serve to increase its chances of breaking partisan gridlock.Mace, a state representative in South Carolina, said the federal First Step Act provided a template for her: It prohibited shackling pregnant women but South Carolina law did not. "I was horrified when I realized that was the practice," she said. "I'm a single mom, I have two kids."The pandemic, in which prisons and jails have become some of the biggest viral hot spots, presents an opportunity for advocates, who hope that COVID-19 relief measures like expanded medical release and early parole will outlast the spread of the coronavirus.Pandemic-related budget shortfalls represent another opportunity. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, a progressive group, has called its legislative agenda for next year "Spend Your Values, Cut Your Losses," arguing that measures like lowering drug penalties and making it harder to revoke probation and parole will save millions of dollars.In a phone interview, Leach, who is co-chairman of the criminal justice caucus in the Texas House and the chairman of its Judiciary Committee, said reform resonates with voters across the spectrum, and not only because it saves money."I think Texans are in love with this issue because we love our freedom and liberty and when people can be free -- when they've proven that they can be free and be productive citizens -- we want to support that and empower them," he said.He added that he is a "pro-life conservative" with deep concerns about wrongful convictions and the broad application of capital punishment: "It should keep us up at night and it definitely does keep me up at night. We know that there are men on death row right now who did not kill anybody. And I'm a strong supporter of the death penalty."Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster, said that criminal justice reform proposals garner support across the board, and help Republicans reach outside their base to groups like suburban women and people of color.Both Scott, the exoneree in Leach's ad, and Johnson, who was in Trump's Super Bowl ad, are Black, whereas the candidates are white.Blizzard said that the "defund the police" slogan proved to be very unpopular with voters. "Honestly, Republicans would have come up with 'defund the police'" if protesters had not, he said.As a result, countless Democratic candidates -- including one former police officer -- complained of having been unfairly smeared with a message they did not support. The resulting toxicity could easily bleed over into areas where there is broad agreement for change.Already, Democrats and Republicans have accused each other of bad faith over a policing bill put forth by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who has spoken of being harassed by law enforcement because he is Black. Democrats said the bill did not go nearly far enough, while Republicans accused Democrats of grandstanding.And some critics say that even states that are known for reform, like Texas, have merely gone from being extremely harsh to less so, and that many of the issues for which it is easier to generate outrage, like shackling women while they give birth, have already been banned. The hard part for reform advocates going forward will be calibrating their ambition."You've already probably done a lot of the easier stuff," said Dan Bayens, co-founder of Content Creative Media, a Republican advertising firm. "The next part is not going to be as easy to do."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
The hallmarks were all there during Trump's transition — off-the-cuff decision-making, high staff turnover and bitter internal battles. So far, Biden's transition has publicly been the opposite.
Five leaders of college Republican groups told Business Insider what they thought of President Donald Trump's election loss.
Joe Biden will emphasize treatment and prevention, not law enforcement, in addressing a drug epidemic that’s only grown more dire during the pandemic.
This month, some individuals took to social media to post screenshots of a fake arrest warrant for President-elect Joe Biden.
Former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne left behind a cloud of confusion when he resigned in 2019 from the internet retailer he’d founded after panicking investors with his bizarre claims that he had romanced a Russian agent at the behest of “Men in Black” working for the United States government.Now he’s back, with what he has described as his own personal “army,” touting what he claims is proof that Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump.“I’ve funded a team of hackers and cybersleuths, other people with odd skills,” Byrne said in a Tuesday interview at One America News, where OAN personality Chanel Rion praised Byrne as the head of an “elite shadow cyber security team.”Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne Claims Maria Butina Offered to Arrange One-on-One for Him With PutinAs Trump’s chances of securing a second term dwindle down to nothing, Byrne has launched a media tour to promote his mysterious hacker team, appearing from an “undisclosed location” on OAN, Newsmax, and a series of far-fringe YouTube shows associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. On Friday, a guest host on the popular Rush Limbaugh talk radio show praised Byrne’s allegations about voter fraud and proposed inviting Byrne on the show.With Trump allies on his legal team and in conservative media scrambling for any evidence that Trump didn’t legitimately lose the presidential race, Byrne has become a hero to the MAGA crowd, despite his history of making off-the-wall allegations.Byrne claims he’s funding teams of “hackers and crackers” who realized all the way back in August that Dominion voting machines could be used to steal the election from Trump. Since the election, those voting machines have figured prominently in Trump supporters’ allegations of fraud, despite the company’s repeated denials and any actual proof the voting tallies were changed.The actual details of Byrne’s supposed hacker super-team, however, similarly thin.“I’m a free agent, and I’m self-funded, and I’m funding this army of various odd people,” Byrne said in a Nov. 23 appearance on a podcast with a QAnon promoter who used the name InTheMatrixxx. “It’s really going to make a great movie someday.”Asked for more details on his hacker team, Byrne referred The Daily Beast to his blog, “DeepCapture.” But the 40,000-word explanation on Byrne’s website focuses on his long-running feud with Wall Street short-sellers, and Byrne’s conversations with a mysterious financial whistleblower called the “Easter Bunny,” rather than on any election investigations team.Byrne stopped responding to emails from The Daily Beast when asked whether any members of his hacker team would be available for interviews.Despite his vague claims, Byrne says he’s been funneling allegations about the election to the White House and one-time Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for weeks. Byrne’s claims are similar to those Powell has made publicly, including an allegation that deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez somehow meddled in the election seven years after his death.“Sidney was the first to really get it, and to get what we’re saying is so vast, that you need kind of a very open-minded person to get it,” Byrne said in the InTheMatrixxx podcast.In the aftermath of the election, Byrne has become the latest with a broad “tech” background to reinvent himself as an expert on voting machines. Byrne is joined in that niche by former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins, who left his position managing the site for its QAnon posts on Election Day and has since appeared on OAN as a so-called elections investigator.During his post-election media tour, Byrne has made a series of other strange claims, including that he could be the reincarnation of an ancient Chinese monk.“I love the Chinese, I speak Chinese, I think I’m the reincarnation of a Shaolin monk, maybe,” Byrne said on the “InTheMatrixxx” podcast.Here’s How Hugo Chavez, Dead Since 2013, Became Responsible for Trump’s Election LossByrne has also encountered some other strange allegations on his media tour. In an appearance on a QAnon YouTube show hosted by a woman named “Cirsten W,” Byrne listened as his host claimed that Bill Clinton and late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein have been cloned.Byrne’s habit of making oddball claims made headlines in 2019, when he was still the CEO of Overstock. Using company letterhead, Byrne issued a statement claiming that “Men in Black” figures in the federal government had urged him to romance Russian agent Maria Butina, who was at the time allegedly trying to infiltrate conservative circles as a gun rights activist. Overstock’s share price plunged, and Byrne eventually resigned after Overstock’s insurer refused to insure the company with Byrne at the helm.A Senate Intelligence Committee report issued in August lays out a different view of Byrne’s interactions with Butina. In the report, Butina sees Byrne as a potential avenue to reach Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), then a presidential candidate. In a July 2016 email published in the committee report, Butina’s boyfriend, Paul Erickson, wrote that Byrne was “stalking” Butina after meeting her at a libertarian conference and claimed that Byrne made her a $1 million offer related to having his child.“Byrne is a bachelor by choice and consequences of his intellectual gifts and limitations, but is now concerned with his mortality and family legacy,” Erickson wrote. “Since meeting Maria, he has found ever more creative ways to pitch a standing $1 million offer to her ‘to have a baby with him.’ He is utterly enamored of her imagined gene stock and believes that a baby would cement not only his familial line but also relations between our two nations.”Byrne didn’t respond to The Daily Beast about the allegations made in Erickson’s email.Byrne’s other allegations haven’t always paid off, either. In 2018, he lost a landmark defamation trial filed against him by a Canadian businessman who had been described on Byrne’s blog as a terrorist financier and drug and arms trafficker, with the plaintiff awarded $1.2 million in damages.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday dismissed as "irrelevant" a U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking coronavirus restrictions imposed on religious gatherings, saying it related to specific areas that were no longer considered at high risk. The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, voted 5-4 late on Wednesday in favor of requests by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish congregations for an injunction to block the restrictions from being enforced. The order marked one of the first consequential actions on the court involving President Donald Trump's new appointee, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast a deciding vote in favor of the religious groups.
Democratic U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's team has tapped a mix of progressives and centrist policy experts, including former derivatives market regulator Gary Gensler, to work on a transition plan for financial industry oversight. CNBC reported on Wednesday that Gensler was also being considered for the job of Treasury deputy secretary, a role that would see him work closely with the heads of financial agencies. Here is how staffing could shake out at some of the key financial regulators, according to nearly two dozen lobbyists, officials and policy experts in Democratic circles.
The Justice Department plans to execute five more inmates before President-elect Biden, who opposes the death penalty, takes office.
Trump angrily admonished Reuters reporter Jeff Mason after he asked if he would concede the election after the Electoral College voted for Biden.
The Trump administration took a step on Friday toward rolling back protections for migratory birds and reducing penalties for companies that inadvertently kill them, the latest effort to finalize regulatory rollbacks before President Donald Trump leaves office in January. The Fish and Wildlife Service published its final environmental impact statement for regulations governing the killing of migratory birds. This bolstered the administration's proposal to reinterpret the 1918 migratory bird statute by limiting the definition of an illegal “taking” under the law to deliberate actions, so shielding from penalty energy companies, developers and others who inadvertently kill birds.
Republicans have picked up their 11th seat overall in the U.S. House and the third seat in California, as Republican David Valadao reclaimed the seat he lost in the farm belt two years ago. The former congressman defeated Democratic Rep. TJ Cox, who ousted Valadao in the 21st Congressional District two years ago by 862 votes. Valadao endorsed President Donald Trump after withholding his backing in 2016 — a risk in a swing district the president lost by 15 points four years ago.
The Pentagon's acting defense secretary has made a rare visit to Somalia, a conflict-plagued nation in the Horn of Africa where American forces have been assisting in the fight against al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab. In a brief statement, the Pentagon said Christopher Miller, who was installed as acting defense secretary Nov. 9 when President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper, met Friday with U.S. troops in Mogadishu, the capital, to express appreciation for their work and to reiterate the U.S. commitment to combating extremist groups.
GENEVA -- In late May, the U.S. ambassador in Geneva, Andrew Bremberg, went on a rescue mission to the World Health Organization headquarters. He told its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that despite weeks of threats that President Donald Trump would quit the health organization, the relationship could still be salvaged.Bremberg hand-delivered a list of seven demands that U.S. officials saw as the beginning of discreet discussions.Hours later, Trump took the lectern outside the White House and blew it all up, announcing that the United States would leave the WHO. The announcement blindsided his own diplomats and Tedros alike.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesIf Trump thought Tedros would relent under the pressure of a U.S. withdrawal, he was wrong. The WHO leader has refused to make concessions or counteroffers, according to American and Western officials. And Trump ultimately made good on his promise to abandon a health agency that the United States helped form a half-century ago.With Trump's election defeat, President-elect Joe Biden appears ready to rejoin the global health body. But he will inherit a fractured relationship and must quickly make decisions about how to overhaul an organization that even staunch supporters say is in dire need of change.While the Trump administration's demands are now moot, they offer a glimpse into both the growing U.S. frustration with the WHO and Trump's personal grievances. And as Biden signals a return to multinational diplomacy, the Trump administration's demands offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the deal-making of a president who favored aggressive, unpredictable moves over more conventional negotiations.As has often been the case during Trump's presidency, his administration was divided, current and former officials said.Diplomats and veteran health officials said the list contained reasonable requests that might have been easily negotiated through normal channels. (The WHO has since made some changes anyway.) But it also contained politically sensitive, if not inappropriate, demands."It doesn't seem to reveal a clear strategic vision," said Gian Luca Burci, a former counsel to the health organization who reviewed the list for The New York Times.Experts said it was easy to see why, in the face of Trump's withdrawal and his efforts to deflect blame for the pandemic, Tedros chose not to negotiate."It was an enormous backfire, and it was bound to be," added Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor and longtime WHO adviser who also reviewed the list. "It wasn't a negotiation. It was blackmail."The State Department did not directly address its proposed terms but said it had acted in good faith in calling for needed changes."At a critical moment when the WHO leadership had the opportunity to rebuild trust among some of its critical member states, it chose a path that did the very opposite and demonstrated its lack of independence from the Chinese Communist Party," Bremberg, the U.S. ambassador in Geneva, said in a statement.The WHO did not comment. Several current and former Trump administration officials and Western diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose private conversations.The U.S. list was the product of months of growing irritation with Tedros, whom senior administration officials saw as too quick to praise China or frame the outbreak in ways favorable to Beijing. Tedros, for example, announced in January that China would share biological samples with the world. But he declined to speak up when China never made good on that promise.The WHO had also quietly acquiesced to Beijing's conditions before an international mission in February and ceded control of an investigation into the virus's origins.Some European health officials and diplomats shared the Trump administration's concerns, officials said. But they regarded these as minor issues in the midst of a pandemic.Trump was particularly focused on the issue of travel. The WHO had a long-standing policy of unrestricted travel. As health experts began reconsidering that policy, Trump became preoccupied with getting credit for having halted some travel from China to the United States in February.By April, as Trump toyed with withdrawing the United States from the WHO, two camps emerged in his administration, current and former officials said. The first group, which included Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, wanted to leave and rally support for a health agency built around Western allies.Others -- like Bremberg; Alex Azar, the health secretary; and Adam Boehler, head of the U.S. International Development Finance Corp. -- argued that only the WHO was backed up by a global treaty. If the United States could get the health agency to make changes, they said, it made sense to stay.That argument prevailed into May, and Trump wrote a letter -- which he released on Twitter -- with an ultimatum. He would leave the WHO if it did not "commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days."Exactly what changes Trump sought, however, remained unclear. The final list emerged from discussions between the White House, State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. In Geneva, Bremberg consulted with European allies, who were eager to keep Trump from abandoning the health organization, Western diplomats said.By late May, the list stood at seven items. The first called for investigations into the WHO's handling of the outbreak and the source of the virus. U.S. officials said they saw this as an easy request; more than 140 countries had already endorsed these investigations.In July, Tedros would do just that. He appointed Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, to lead an investigation into the response to the pandemic. A separate investigation into the virus's origins is slowly getting underway.Second, the United States asked Tedros to call on China to provide live virus samples and stop censoring Chinese doctors and journalists. This would have been a significant break for the WHO, which rarely criticizes members. Tedros has told colleagues that he sees no benefit in such criticism, especially during a pandemic.Conceding to the Trump administration's demand would have meant allowing one country to dictate the organization's posture toward another. But in Washington, one senior White House official recalled this as a key condition, a signal of Tedros' independence.The third item asked Tedros to say that countries were right to consider travel restrictions during the pandemic -- a break from the long-standing advice that limiting travel would not slow the virus but would harm economies and delay medical treatment.The WHO had already begun to soften that stance by the time Bremberg delivered the list. In April, the organization called for "appropriate and proportionate restrictions" on domestic and international travel.But Tedros interpreted the request as demanding that he apologize to Trump and say the president was right to restrict travel from China, according to public health officials and diplomats who have talked to him. Tedros was wary of being drawn into the U.S. presidential campaign, where travel restrictions were a rallying cry for the Trump campaign.Gostin, who agrees that the WHO should study and revisit its travel guidance, said it was inappropriate for the United States to try to strong-arm the change. He said the list smacked of politics, not good health policy."It was all about my country, my politics, my election," he said.The fourth item on the list called for the WHO to dispatch a team to Taiwan to study its successful pandemic response. Taiwan is not a member of the health organization, and Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its own, exerts tremendous pressure to keep the WHO from engaging with Taiwan's government.The U.S. requests also called for the WHO to prequalify coronavirus drugs and vaccines for use around the world once they were authorized by major regulators in the United States, Canada, Europe or Japan. That could help fast-track important treatments, but it could also have been seen as allowing the United States to influence the health organization's drug-approval policy.The Trump administration also asked Tedros to ensure that countries like the United States that contribute heavily to the WHO are proportionally represented on the organization's staff. And it sought support for proposed changes put forward by the Group of 7 -- the United States, Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Canada and Italy. That request is moot, as the G-7 proposal has been folded into larger overhaul efforts.By the time Bremberg and Tedros met in Geneva, however, the political ground had shifted in Washington.Meadows, the White House chief of staff, believed that negotiations with Tedros were a long shot. Even if they succeeded, he argued, they would take too long and yield too little, one senior administration official recalled.Trump had already planned a news conference criticizing China. Shortly before the event, the president's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, joined Meadows, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Boehler in Meadows' office in the West Wing, according to the official. From that meeting emerged a plan: Trump would withdraw the country from the WHO.Trump agreed and added the announcement to the news conference. He had done something similar in 2018, announcing that he was quitting a United Nations postal pact, only to reverse himself after winning concessions.Tedros showed no appetite for such deal-making. He told colleagues that he felt boxed in, stuck between China and the United States. Speaking to reporters soon after Trump's announcement, Tedros said that U.S. partnership had served humanity for decades."It has made a great difference in public health all around the world," he said. "It is WHO's wish for this collaboration to continue."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
A federal appeals court has shot down the Trump campaign’s attempt to overturn the election result in Pennsylvania—with a judge appointed by the president writing the scathing decision.“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Stephanos Bibas wrote in a 21-page opinion issued Friday.The three-judge panel noted that the campaign’s grievances amounted to “nothing more” than allegations that Pennsylvania restricted poll watchers and let voters fix technical defects in their mail-in ballots.“The Campaign tries to repackage these state-law claims as unconstitutional discrimination. Yet its allegations are vague and conclusory,” the opinion says.“It never alleges that anyone treated the Trump campaign or Trump votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or Biden votes.”In Thanksgiving Message, Trump Says ‘We’re Like a Third World Country’ Because He Lost Election The decision comes after Pennsylvania already certified that President-elect Joe Biden was the winner but makes clear that Trump does not have a legal leg to stand on in contesting the outcome.The court said it would not issue an injunction to undo the certification because “the Campaign’s claims have no merit.”“The number of ballots it specifically challenges is far smaller than the roughly 81,000-vote margin of victory. And it never claims fraud or that any votes were cast by illegal voters,” the court found.“Plus, tossing out millions of mail-in ballots would be drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate and upsetting all down-ballot races too. That remedy would be grossly disproportionate to the procedural challenges raised. So we deny the motion for an injunction pending appeal.”In a tweet after the ruling, Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis indicated the team thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the arguments that have now been thoroughly trashed by two lower courts.“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” she tweeted.But the 3rd Circuit judges who rejected the appeal were all appointed by Republicans: Bibas, who was nominated by Trump in 2017, Chief Justice Brooks Smith, who was nominated in 2001 by President Bush; and Judge Michael Chagares, who was nominated by Bush in 2006.The opinion goes point by point through the hodgepodge of claims put forward by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other campaign attorneys, dismantling each one. In closing, the court seemed to find it necessary to spell out some legal basics for the president’s team.“Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” they wrote.“The ballots here are governed by Pennsylvania election law. No federal law requires poll watchers or specifies where they must live or how close they may stand when votes are counted. Nor does federal law govern whether to count ballots with minor state-law defects or let voters cure those defects. “Those are all issues of state law, not ones that we can hear. And earlier lawsuits have rejected those claims. Seeking to turn those state-law claims into federal ones, the Campaign claims discrimination. But its alchemy cannot transmute lead into gold.”Pennsylvania Certifies Biden as Winner, Driving Stake in Trump’s Legal EffortThe decision is the latest in a pile of losses that Trump has racked up in courts across the country since the election. Yet as recently as Friday morning, Trump tweeted that the matter was not yet settled.“Biden can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous ‘80,000,000 votes’ were not fraudulently or illegally obtained,” he posted. The tweet, which has no basis in fact, was flagged by Twitter.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
"The only thing that he has to go in and do is continue to capitalize off of the momentum,” one advocate for criminal justice reform said.
Twitter users mocked President Donald Trump using the hashtag DiaperDon after he sat at a smaller-than-usual table while talking to reporters.
WASHINGTON -- A few minutes before midnight Wednesday, the nation got its first glimpse of how profoundly President Donald Trump had transformed the Supreme Court.Just months ago, Chief Justice John Roberts was at the peak of his power, holding the controlling vote in closely divided cases and almost never finding himself in dissent. But the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett late last month, which put a staunch conservative in the seat formerly held by the liberal mainstay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meant that it was only a matter of time before the chief justice's leadership would be tested.On Wednesday, Barrett dealt the chief justice a body blow. She cast the decisive vote in a 5-4 ruling that rejected restrictions on religious services in New York imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to combat the coronavirus, shoving the chief justice into dissent with the court's three remaining liberals. It was one of six opinions the court issued Wednesday, spanning 33 pages and opening a window on a court in turmoil.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesThe ruling was at odds with earlier ones in cases from California and Nevada issued before Ginsburg's death in September. Those decisions upheld restrictions on church services by 5-4 votes, with Roberts in the majority. The New York decision said that Cuomo's strict virus limits -- capping attendance at religious services at 10 people in "red zones" where risk was highest, and at 25 in slightly less dangerous "orange zones" -- violated the First Amendment's protection of the free exercise of religion.Wednesday's ruling was almost certainly a taste of things to come. While Ginsburg was alive, Roberts voted with the court's four-member liberal wing in cases striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, blocking a Trump administration initiative that would have rolled back protections for young immigrants known as "Dreamers," refusing to allow a question on citizenship to be added to the census and saving the Affordable Care Act.Had Barrett rather than Ginsburg been on the court when those cases were decided, the results might well have flipped. In coming cases, too, Barrett will almost certainly play a decisive role. Her support for claims of religious freedom, a subject of questioning at her confirmation hearings and a theme in her appellate decisions, will almost certainly play a prominent role.Democrats had feared, and Trump had predicted, that Barrett's vote might be crucial in a case arising from the presidential election. But there is no case on the court's docket or on the horizon that has a realistic potential to alter the outcome.It is not clear how Barrett will vote in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which was argued this month. But, judging from the questioning, the act is quite likely to survive however she votes.Roberts is fundamentally conservative, and his liberal votes have been rare. But they reinforced his frequent statements that the court is not a political body. The court's new and solid conservative majority may send a different message.That said, the court's dynamics can be complicated, and not all decisions break along predictable lines. For instance, while Roberts has lost his place at the court's ideological center, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was the second of Trump's three court appointments, values consensus and may turn out to be an occasional ally.On Wednesday, Kavanaugh issued a conciliatory concurring opinion emphasizing that he agreed with much of what Roberts had written in dissent."I part ways with the chief justice," he wrote, "on a narrow procedural point." That point -- whether the court should act immediately, notwithstanding Cuomo's decision to lift the challenged restrictions for the time being -- was, however, enough to decide the case.The majority opinion was unsigned, but Ross Guberman, an authority on legal writing and author of "Point Taken: How to Write Like the World's Best Judges," said he suspected that its principal author was the newest justice."My money is on Justice Barrett," Guberman said, pointing to word choices that echoed her opinions on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Among them, he said, was "the concession that justices 'are not public health experts,'" and "the taste for 'And,' 'But,' and 'show.'"The unsigned opinion was mild and measured, which is also characteristic of Barrett's judicial work. It took issue with what it said were Cuomo's unduly harsh restrictions, which had been challenged by, among others, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two synagogues, the latter of which had argued that Cuomo had "singled out a particular religion for blame and retribution for an uptick in a societywide pandemic."The majority opinion said less restrictive measures would work."Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue," the opinion said. "It is hard to believe that admitting more than 10 people to a 1,000-seat church or 400-seat synagogue would create a more serious health risk than the many other activities that the state allows."The opinion said the state had treated secular businesses more favorably than houses of worship."The list of 'essential' businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, camp grounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities," the opinion said.The most notable signed opinion came from Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first appointee. His concurrence was bitter, slashing and triumphant, and it took aim at Roberts, whose concurring opinion in the California case in May had been relied on by courts around the nation to assess the constitutionality of restrictions prompted by the pandemic.The chief justice's basic point was that government officials, in consultation with scientific experts, were better positioned than judges to make determinations about public health. But Gorsuch wrote that the opinion, in South Bay Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, was worthless."Even if the Constitution has taken a holiday during this pandemic, it cannot become a sabbatical," he wrote. "Rather than apply a nonbinding and expired concurrence from South Bay, courts must resume applying the Free Exercise Clause. Today, a majority of the court makes this plain.""We may not shelter in place when the Constitution is under attack," Gorsuch wrote. "Things never go well when we do."Roberts responded, in a tone suggesting that his patience was being tested, that there was no need to act because Cuomo had, for the time being, lifted the restrictions."Numerical capacity limits of 10 and 25 people, depending on the applicable zone, do seem unduly restrictive," he wrote. "And it may well be that such restrictions violate the Free Exercise Clause. It is not necessary, however, for us to rule on that serious and difficult question at this time."The court's three liberal members were to varying degrees prepared to support the restrictions. Roberts made a point of defending his colleagues from Gorsuch's attacks, saying they were operating in good faith."To be clear," the chief justice wrote, quoting from Gorsuch's concurring opinion, "I do not regard my dissenting colleagues as 'cutting the Constitution loose during a pandemic,' yielding to 'a particular judicial impulse to stay out of the way in times of crisis,' or 'sheltering in place when the Constitution is under attack.' They simply view the matter differently after careful study and analysis reflecting their best efforts to fulfill their responsibility under the Constitution."In a separate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, said the majority was being reckless. "Justices of this court play a deadly game," she wrote, "in second-guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Lately, Sam Jacobs has had a lot of conversations with his family's lawyers. He's trying to gain access to more of his $30 million trust fund. At 25, he's hit the age when many heirs can blow their money on harebrained businesses or a stable of sports cars. He doesn't want to do that, but by wealth management standards, his plan is just as bad. He wants to give it all away."I want to build a world where someone like me, a young person who controls tens of millions of dollars, is impossible," he said.A socialist since college, Jacobs sees his family's "extreme, plutocratic wealth" as both a moral and economic failure. He wants to put his inheritance toward ending capitalism, and by that he means using his money to undo systems that accumulate money for those at the top, and that have played a large role in widening economic and racial inequality.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesMillennials will be the recipients of the largest generational shift of assets in American history -- the Great Wealth Transfer, as finance types call it. Tens of trillions of dollars are expected to pass between generations in just the next decade.And that money, like all wealth in the United States, is extremely concentrated in the upper brackets. Jacobs, whose grandfather was a founder of Qualcomm, expects to receive up to $100 million over the course of his lifetime.Most of his fellow millennials, however, are receiving a rotten inheritance -- debt, dim job prospects and a figment of a social safety net. The youngest of them were 15 in 2011 when Occupy Wall Street drew a line between the have-a-lots and everyone else; the oldest, if they were lucky, were working in a post-recession economy even before the current recession. Class and inequality have been part of the political conversation for most of their adult lives.In their time, the ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor has pushed left-wing politics back into the American political mainstream. President-elect Joe Biden trailed Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist candidate, by 20 points among millennial voters in this year's Democratic presidential primary. And over the past six years, millennials have taken the Democratic Socialists of America from a fringe organization with an average member age of 60 to a national force with chapters in every state and a membership of nearly 100,000, most of them under 35.Jacobs, as both a trust-fund kid and an anti-capitalist, is in a rare position among leftists fighting against economic inequality. But he isn't alone in trying to figure out, as he put it, "what it means to be with the 99%, when you're the 1%."Challenging the System"I was always taught that this is just the way the world is, that my family has wealth while others don't, and that because of that, I need to give some of it away, but not necessarily question why it was there," said Rachel Gelman, a 30-year-old in Oakland, California, who describes her politics as "anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and abolitionist."Her family always gave generously to liberal causes and civil society groups. Gelman supports groups devoted to ending inequality, including the Movement for Black Lives, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Critical Resistance, a leading prison abolition group."My money is mostly stocks, which means it comes from underpaying and undervaluing working-class people, and that's impossible to disconnect from the economic legacies of Indigenous genocide and slavery," Gelman said. "Once I realized that, I couldn't imagine doing anything with my wealth besides redistribute it to these communities."According to the consulting firm Accenture, the Silent Generation and baby boomers will gift their heirs up to $30 trillion by 2030, and up to $75 trillion by 2060. These fortunes began to amass decades ago -- in some cases centuries. But the concentration of wealth became stratospheric starting in the 1970s, when neoliberalism became the financial sector's guiding economic philosophy and companies began to obsessively pursue higher returns for shareholders."The wealth millennials are inheriting came from a mammoth redistribution away from the working masses, creating a super-rich tiny minority at the expense of a fleeting American dream that is now out of reach to most people," said Richard D. Wolff, a Marxist and an emeritus economics professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst who has published 12 books about class and inequality.He said he has professionally argued against capitalism's selling points since his teaching career began, in 1967, but that his millennial students "are more open to hearing that message than their parents ever were."Heirs whose wealth has come from a specific source sometimes use that history to guide their giving. Pierce Delahunt, a 32-year-old "socialist, anarchist, Marxist, communist or all of the above," has a trust fund that was financed by their former stepfather's outlet mall empire. (Delahunt takes nongendered pronouns.)"When I think about outlet malls, I think about intersectional oppression," Delahunt said. There's the originally Indigenous land each mall was built on, plus the low wages paid to retail and food service workers, who are disproportionately people of color, and the carbon emissions of manufacturing and transporting the goods. With that on their mind, Delahunt gives away $10,000 a month, divided among 50 small organizations, most of which have an anti-capitalist mission and in some way tackle the externalities of discount shopping.If money is power, then true wealth redistribution also means redistributing authority. Margi Dashevsky, who is 33 and lives in Alaska, gets guidance on her charitable giving from an advisory team of three women activists from Indigenous and Black power movements. "The happenstance of me being born into this wealth doesn't mean I'm somehow omniscient about how it should be used," she said. "It actually gives me a lot of blind spots."She also donates to social justice funds like Third Wave Fund, where grant-making is guided by the communities receiving funding, instead of being decided by a board of wealthy individuals. The latter sort of nonprofit, Dashevsky said, "comes from a place of assuming incompetence, putting up all these hurdles for activists and wasting their time on things like impact reporting. I want to flip that on its head by stepping back, trusting and listening."Of course, an individual act of wealth redistribution does not, on its own, change a system. But these heirs see themselves as part of a bigger shift, and are dedicated to funding its momentum.The Revolution Starts at the Dinner TableAny leftist trying to shake off an inheritance will, at some point, find their way to Resource Generation; all of the heirs in this article did. The organization, founded in 1998, is a politicization machine for wealthy 18- to 35-year-olds.The nonprofit offers programming that encourages members to see capitalism not as a market-based equalizer promising upward mobility, but as a damaging system predicated on, as Resource Generation puts it, "stolen land, stolen labor and stolen lives." In go young people knotted by tension between their progressive values and their wealth; out come determined campaigners with a plan to redistribute.Maria Myotte, the organization's communications director, said that membership grows each time the nation has a reckoning: Occupy Wall Street, the 2016 presidential election, and this year's twin jolts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising against anti-Black racism all attracted newbies. There are around 1,000 dues-paying members at local chapters around the U.S. According to the most recent internal survey, the wider Resource Generation network, which includes some nonmembers, collectively expects to control $22 billion in their lifetimes.Heirs who want to redistribute their wealth said that, at first, they approached the task with the righteous fire of revolutionaries, castigating family members for their coziness with privilege. "There were many angry conversations around the dinner table where I was an impatient, arrogant brat," said Sam Vinal, a 34-year-old in Los Angeles. But many have found that they can be more persuasive when they treat these conversations like friendly political canvassing.When Vinal's mother wanted to start a family foundation, an arrangement typically focused on a single charitable issue, Vinal saw an opportunity to instead create a vehicle for more comprehensive change. He set up conversations with leaders of various social movements to convince his mother to change the mission. "That was a light bulb moment for my mom, to hear directly from the front lines," he said.Since its creation in 2017, the foundation has supported radical organizations, with guidance from a group of activists. Vinal spends much of his time organizing other young people with family foundations to take theirs in this direction."I try to understand where people are coming from, the bubbles of race and class we get stuck in, so that I can help them be more imaginative about where we can go beyond capitalism," he said.Building the 'Solidarity Economy'The racial wealth gap means that heirs who want to redistribute their wealth are overwhelmingly white. People of color who are members of Resource Generation, for instance, tend to have access to less overall wealth, or will not inherit until later in life. The wealthiest are transracial adoptees or those who have a white parent. This makes the approach to redistribution a little more complicated."The narrative of giving away everything feels like it's being framed by white inheritors," said Elizabeth Baldwin, a 34-year-old democratic socialist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was adopted from India by a white family when she was a baby. Heirs in her position, she said, must decide whether to redistribute to their own communities or others', and what it means to give up economic privilege when they don't have the kind of safety net that comes with being white. She plans to keep enough of her inheritance to buy an apartment and raise a family, enjoying the sort of pleasant middle-class existence denied to many people of color in the United States.Because her adoptive family's wealth originated in land ownership and slavery, she donates to anti-racist groups and will soon begin making low-interest loans to Black-owned businesses. "The money I'm living on was made from exploiting people that look like me, so I see my giving as reparations," she said.Baldwin has long-term relationships with Grassroots International and Thousand Currents, philanthropy networks working in many postcolonial countries, including India, whose impoverishment she sees as a symptom of Western capitalism. It is sometimes "strange," she admitted, to be making reparations to her own people. "But no one else in my family talks about where this money came from, and I feel like I have to do it," she said.There's another hitch: Because the stock market is both an engine of American capitalism and responsible in many cases for heirs' massive individual wealth, few want anything to do with it."I get rich because other people aren't getting rich, and I don't want to keep making more wealth off investments in things like Coca-Cola and Exxon-Mobil," said Baldwin. "I would rather put my money into a community that has been denied economic resources and disrupt the system."She is doing this by investing in what she and her peers call the "solidarity economy."In short, this means using their money to support more equitable economic infrastructures. This includes investing in or donating to credit unions, worker-owned businesses, community land trusts, and nonprofits aiming to maximize quality of life through democratic decision making, instead of maximizing profits through competition. Emma Thomas, a 29-year-old democratic socialist who is also taking her money out of the stock market, described what she's now investing in as "an economy that is about exchange and taking care of needs, that is cooperative and sustainable, and that doesn't demand unfettered growth."This summer, she was part of a team that organized about 250 people to support the Black Land and Power Project, moving money from asset portfolios to 10 Black-run land sites across the U.S. (Because of the nation's history of economic racism, many solidarity economy projects include a racial justice element.)To Thomas, the prospect of contributing to a solidarity economy is a refreshingly tangible expression of her values, compared to the abstraction of accumulating portfolio returns. "At some point, these numbers on a screen are imaginary," she said. "But what's not imaginary is whether you have shelter, food and a community. Those are true returns."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
“Donald Trump defeated Donald Trump.”
“The victory was a vindication of a style of American politics that many feared was gone forever.”
“Mr. Biden’s victory — and Mr. Trump’s defeat — is a testament to the resilience of American democracy.”
“Trump’s 2020 reelection bid was doomed by his boorish behavior. Time and again, he refused to act like a president.”
“Biden took the opportunity to unite the Democratic Party.”