Supreme Court hears case that could upend how states run elections. Trump attorneys find more classified documents in a Florida storage unit. Germany: Massive operation nets 25 far-right coup plotters.
Supreme Court hears case that could upend how states run elections
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case today that could have wide ranging implications for how states run their federal elections by eliminating judicial oversight in state election matters. The case was brought by members of North Carolina’s Republican-dominated state legislature. Following the 2020 Census, the legislature redrew its congressional districts. The state’s supreme court rejected the new map due to gross partisan gerrymandering in Republicans’ favor.
Twice more, the legislature submitted revised maps, each of which the court also rejected. The court finally appointed its own outside experts to create a new map. The court’s map gives each party equal share of favorable districts. This reflects North Carolina’s votership, which is more or less evenly split. The courts map created 7 Republican-leaning districts and 7 Democratic-leaning districts. By contrast, the legislators’ maps created either 10 or 11 Republican districts.
The legislature then decided to take the case to the federal Supreme Court. The lawmakers are arguing that the state courts have no right to interfere in election matters due to a conservative doctrine that they call the “independent state legislature theory,” or ISL.
What is the “independent state legislature theory”?
Basically, the ISL doctrine is based on a very strict, and some say antiquated, reading of the federal Constitution. The Constitution states that the “Times, places and manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof”.
Most judges and legal scholars, including conservatives, take the term “legislature” to mean the state government as a whole, including courts and the governor. This more closely reflects the understanding of the word “legislature” at the time of the Constitution’s authors. What North Carolina’s Republicans want is a more narrow reading of the Constitution. If the Supreme Court sides with them, neither state courts nor governors would have any decision-making power regarding elections.
Advisors of former President Trump cited the ISL theory in their efforts to coerce state legislatures to appoint slates of fake electors following the 2020 election.
Why does it matter?
In theory, if the Supreme Court finds in favor of North Carolina’s legislators, it could allow the state legislatures anywhere in the country to appoint slates of electors in presidential elections that don’t reflect the will of their voters. It would also remove any judicial checks on legislatures’ powers to draw districts, opening the way to rampant gerrymandering. Moreover, legislatures could pass laws governing how elections are run which the governor could not veto.
Several advocacy groups, legal scholars, and judges have submitted amicus briefs to the Court arguing against the ISL theory. These groups and jurists run the gamut politically, from progressive to very conservative. Even a prominent member of the conservative Federalist Society, Northwestern law professor Steven Calabresi, has called on the Court to reject the ISL argument. Calabresit condemned the GOP lawmakers’ use of the ISL doctrine as an attempt at “a huge national power grab”.
Furthermore, a ruling in favor of ISL would mean that the federal Supreme Court would have to weigh in on every state-level election dispute. Chief Justice David Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court says such a cumbersome situation is simply “not fathomable”.
Trump’s attorneys find more classified documents in a Florida storage unit
Earlier today, The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that lawyers for former President Trump had hired an outside firm to search at least three properties belonging to or used by Trump for any classified material. The lawyers commissioned the search after a federal judge questioned their compliance with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all materials bearing classified markings.
Trump’s attorneys have gotten their fingers burned before, making sworn declarations regarding the documents. Back in June, Trump attorneys Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran met with DOJ counterterrorism head Jay Bratt at Mar-a-Lago. At the meeting, Bobb and Corcoran handed over a box of materials they claimed contained all the classified material, along with a signed affidavit to that effect . Two months later, the FBI found over 100 more classified documents at the property.
The recent search apparently turned up nothing of interest at Trump Tower in New York or Trump’s Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. But the Post now reports the search team did find at least two more documents with classification markings at an off-site storage unit near Mar-a-Lago.
The content of those documents has not been made public. The discovery does indicates that Trump kept classified material at properties besides Mar-a-Lago. It also further demonstrates that Trump and his team did not fully comply with the May grand jury subpoena.
Germany: Massive operation nets 25 far-right coup plotters
In an operation in 11 of Germany’s 16 states and in two other countries, police have arrested 25 people who were plotting to overthrow Germany’s government. The plotters planned to establish a new government modeled on the Second Reich which ruled Germany between 1871 and the end of WWI in 1918.
One of the ringleaders, a minor aristocrat called Heinrich XIII, would be the figurehead of the new government. A former senior German military officer, identified only as Rüdiger von P., would lead the violent military overthrow of Germany’s current government and thereafter lead the country’s military arm. Both Heinrich and von P were among those arrested.
Over 3000 police officers took part in the raids, some of which included military installations and barracks. One of these apparently was a barracks of Germany’s special forces unit KSK. The unit has faced scrutiny in the past for its far-right connections and allegiances.
The conspirators were adherents of the QAnon cult and the far-right Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement. The Reichsbürger movement has at least 22,000 followers in Germany. The group has been linked to violent acts of terrorism against government officials and ethnic minorities in the country.
The plotters had adopted a conspiracy theory believing that a corrupt “deep state” controls modern Germany. They believed German intelligence agencies would soon expose and depose this deep state with help from the US and Russian militaries.
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