Justice Clarence Thomas reveals some sympathy for Trump's baseless fraud claims


A longtime conservative, Thomas’ legal views naturally aligned with the Trump administration. But his dissent stands out for how much it subscribed to the Trump worldview of fraud, a notion debunked by election law experts and that has failed overwhelmingly in dozens of state and federal court challenges.

“We are fortunate that many of the cases we have seen alleged only improper rule changes, not fraud. But that observation provides only small comfort,” Thomas said, dissenting as the court rejected a long-pending challenge to Pennsylvania mail-in voting procedures.

“An election free from strong evidence of systemic fraud is not alone sufficient for election confidence,” Thomas wrote.

READ: Clarence Thomas' dissent in Pennsylvania election decision

In his 11-page dissent on Monday, Thomas referred to “fraud” 10 times and emphasized alleged flaws in ballots that arrive by mail. He said review of them may be particularly subjective, for example on the validity of signatures, and require state officials to sift through millions of ballots. Each state determines its own election procedures, for balloting in person or by mail, within the safeguards of the federal Voting Rights Act and Constitution.

“The decision to leave election law hidden beneath a shroud of doubt is baffling,” he wrote. “By doing nothing, we invite further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our fellow citizens deserve better and expect more of us.”

The 2020 election, occurring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, increased mail-in voting and then led to a raft of lawsuits, ending with no proof of election fraud, let alone widespread cheating that could have flipped an election result.

Defenders of Trump, who lost the November 3 presidential contest to Joe Biden, have claimed rampant fraud and a “stolen” election, without evidence.

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Thomas’ wife, Ginni, was a highly visible Trump loyalist, attending numerous White House events including his 2020 victory celebration when the Senate acquitted him in the first impeachment trial. She generated recent headlines as it became known she apologized to former Thomas judicial clerks for her post-election backing of Trump and early support for the January 6 rally that turned into a deadly riot inside the US Capitol.

“Many of us are hurting, after leaving it all on the field, to preserve the best of this country,” she wrote in one post-election email.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise on Sunday declined to concede that the 2020 election was not stolen.
Clarence Thomas' wife apologizes to his former clerks for divide that developed amid fallout over Capitol riot

“Look, Joe Biden’s the president, there were a few states that did not follow their state laws, that’s really the dispute that you’ve seen continue on,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Once the electors are counted, yes, he is the legitimate president. But if you’re going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own state legislatively set laws, that’s the issue at heart.”

Election experts reject such contentions, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, said in December the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Thomas, a 1991 appointee of GOP President George H.W. Bush, has made clear in written opinions and statements during oral arguments that he believed Trump and his administration were unfairly targeted in litigation.

What Steve Scalise's answers on Donald Trump really tell us
Trump has long adopted an aggrieved tone regarding the courts and in recent months when he lodged baseless election-fraud claims, as seen in this all-caps statement: “IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION! IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!” At the time, in early November, validly cast votes were simply being counted.

The constitutional question with Pennsylvania

The Supreme Court has generally sidestepped Trump election controversies, and even as Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented and said the majority should hear the Pennsylvania dispute to clarify rules for the future, they declined to mention fraud or voter irregularities on the ground and did not join Thomas’ dissent.

The court denied an appeal by Republicans objecting to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that allowed ballots received up to three days after Election Day to be counted. Their order was unsigned, but the majority presumably consisted of Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Supreme Court denies election appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans

The legal question centered on the power of a state court to alter electoral rules. Alito and Gorsuch insisted that open-ended query should be resolved, especially because it could arise in future elections. Thomas went further to suggest the GOP challengers could win their case.

“Because the Federal Constitution, not state constitutions, gives state legislatures authority to regulate federal elections,” Thomas wrote, “petitioners presented a strong argument that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision violated the Constitution by overriding the clearly expressed intent of the legislature.”

Thomas observed that the state court’s decision involved too few ballots to affect the outcome of any federal election. “But that may not be the case in the future,” he said, reinforcing his larger point regarding election integrity.

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“An election system lacks clear rules when, as here, different officials dispute who has authority to set or change those rules,” Thomas wrote. “This kind of dispute brews confusion because voters may not know which rules to follow. Even worse … competing candidates might each declare victory under different sets of rules.”

Pennsylvania state election officials enforced the state court deadline and, under a prior court order, segregated the late-arriving ballots, of which there were only about 10,000, according to the secretary of state’s office.

“If state officials have the authority they have claimed, we need to make it clear,” Thomas argued. “If not, we need to put an end to this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic.”

The court’s majority may have believed the dispute no longer legally relevant or considered it too politically fraught to hear even with the 2020 election over. After having sat on the lawsuit for four months, none of the justices in the majority explained their reasoning.



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What the Supreme Court ruling means for Manhattan DA's Trump criminal investigation



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Garland gets emotional during Senate confirmation hearing



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6 takeaways from Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing



The chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit pledged to “fend off any effort by anyone” to politicize the investigations of the department.

“I am not the President’s lawyer,” said Garland. “I am the United States’ lawyer.”

Here are six takeaways from Garland’s nomination hearing.

Senate Republicans pressed Garland on the independence of the Justice Department from the White House.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asked him about whether he would be Biden’s “wing man,” a dig at a 2013 comment from former President Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder.

“I will do everything in my power, which I believe is considerable, to fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way,” Garland said. “My job is to protect the Department of Justice and its employees in going about their job and doing the right thing, according to the facts and the law.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa asked Garland whether he had spoken to Biden about his son’s case. Federal investigators in Delaware have been examining multiple financial issues, including whether Hunter Biden violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in foreign countries.

“I have not,” Garland responded. “The President made abundantly clear in every public statement before and after my nomination that decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department. That was the reason that I was willing to take on this job.”

Garland said DOJ will pursue all leads in investigation of Capitol riot

Democrats largely didn’t mention Donald Trump by name when they asked about the investigation into the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but they touched on the question of whether the Justice Department should examine the former President’s role for encouraging the mob, which led to his impeachment. Even Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, after voting to acquit Trump in the Senate trial, suggested that the criminal justice system is the right venue in which to consider those allegations.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, encouraged Garland to look “upstream” and “not rule out investigation of funders, organizers, ringleaders, or aiders and abettors, who were not present in the Capitol on January 6.”

“We begin with the people on the ground and we work our way up to those who were involved and further involved,” responded Garland. “We will pursue these leads wherever they take us.”

Garland has concerns about death penalty

Before becoming a judge, Garland led the Justice Department investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He said Monday that he did not regret the execution of the perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh. But he said that he had “developed concerns” about the death penalty since then due to some exonerations of those convicted, the “arbitrariness and randomness of its application,” and its “disparate impact” on Black Americans and other minority communities.

“Those are things that give me pause,” he said.

Garland said if the President ordered a moratorium on the death penalty then it would apply to all cases. But in response to a question from Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Garland said he had not yet considered whether to recommend to Biden an across the board commutation of death row inmates to reduce their sentences to life in prison.

Garland sees no reason why Durham probe won’t continue

Senate Republicans urged Garland to allow special counsel John Durham to complete his investigation of the FBI’s Russia probe but Garland’s response didn’t exactly satisfy them.

Cotton pressed Garland to explain why he couldn’t pledge to give Durham the resources he needed, pointing out that former Attorney General William Barr did so for the Mueller probe during his 2019 confirmation hearing.

Garland said he needed to learn more about the investigation before he could make any commitments, but added that he didn’t have “any reason to think he should not remain in place.”

Garland said that there were “problems” with the FBI’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants in the Russia investigation, which were documented by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report.

“I think deeply that we have to be careful about how we use FISA, and that’s the reason we have pretty strict regulations internally in policies,” he added. “We need to find out why they aren’t followed and to be sure that they are followed.”

Garland on path to be confirmed with bipartisan support

Garland is expected to be confirmed in the Democratic-led Senate with bipartisan support.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Garland was “a very good pick for this job.” And GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas indicated he would vote for Garland, saying the nominee met the senator’s “sole” criteria — a pledge to conduct investigations without succumbing to political influence.

Even Republicans who may vote against him praised Garland.

“In two-plus decades on the court, you have built a reputation for integrity and for setting aside partisan interests in following the law,” said Cruz, before noting that the attorney general job is different.

Garland wants to ‘pay back’ his country for protecting his family from anti-Semitism

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker asked Garland to share a private conversation they had about his family history in confronting hate and discrimination. Garland responded with a brief, yet emotional, anecdote, fighting back tears as he explained why leading the Justice Department was important to him.

“I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution,” Garland said. “The country took us in, and protected us. I feel an obligation to the country to pay back.”



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Supreme Court's one-sentence order denying Trump's request to shield his tax returns from New York prosecutor


(CNN)The Supreme Court on Monday released a one-sentence order denying former President Donald Trump’s request to keep his tax records from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

This is the order released by the court:

TRUMP, DONALD J. V. VANCE, CYRUS R., ET AL.



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Supreme Court takes up Trump regulation on abortion counseling



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Supreme Court allows release of Trump tax returns



The Supreme Court cleared the way for a New York prosecutor to obtain former President Trump’s tax returns, dealing a massive loss to Trump who has fiercely fought to shield his financial papers from prosecutors.

The ruling is a bitter loss for Trump, even if the tax records are shielded from public disclosure, after he consistently argued that the subpoena issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was overbroad and issued in bad faith.

What this means for Trump: The grand jury investigation into alleged hush money payments and other issues will no longer be hampered by Trump’s fight to keep the documents secret. The documents will be subject to grand jury secrecy rules that restrict their public release.The ruling was issued without comment or dissent.

Some background: Last July, the Supreme Court, voting 7-2, rejected the Trump’s broad claims of immunity from a state criminal subpoena seeking his tax returns and said that as president he was not entitled to any kind of heightened standard unavailable to ordinary citizens. The justices sent the case back to the lower court so that the President could make more targeted objections regarding the scope of the subpoena.

CNN’s Jessica Schneider reports:



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Supreme Court refuses to take up Stormy Daniels appeal in defamation case against Trump


In court papers, Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — said that she agreed to cooperate with a magazine that was intending to publish details about her alleged relationship with Trump in 2006.

Afterward, she says, she was threatened by a stranger who approached her and told her “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”

Supreme Court allows release of Trump tax returns to NY prosecutor

She released a sketch of the man who threatened her. Shortly after the sketch was released, a Twitter user, not related to the parties in the case, tweeted out the sketch juxtaposed with a photo of Clifford’s ex-husband.

Trump retweeted the tweet writing “a sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it.)!”

After the tweet, Clifford sued Trump for defamation in the Southern District of New York. The case was then moved to the Central District of California. Trump sought to dismiss the case and won in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that because “the tweet could not reasonably be read as asserting that Ms. Clifford committed a crime, this theory of defamation is not viable.”



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Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to Trump administration's public charge rule



The rule, issued by the Trump administration in August 2019, is still in effect in most states nationwide. It immediately met pushback, and was subsequently blocked by courts, following its release.

The “public charge” provision dates back at least to the Immigration Act of 1882. Federal lawmakers at the time wanted to make sure that immigrants would be able to take care of themselves and not end up being a public burden.

Under current regulations put in place in 1996, the term is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government assistance, meaning it supplies more than half their income.

But it only counted cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security. The Trump administration’s rule widened the definition of who is expected to be dependent on the government by including more benefit programs.

Opponents of the rule, such as Susan Welber, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said that the government was trying to exclude “as unworthy and unwelcome anyone who is predicted to receive even a small amount of food, health or housing assistance at any point.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.



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