At the beginning of 2022, white nationalist youth leader Nick Fuentes declared that he had no time for intimate relationships because he had chosen to be “an historical figure” leading “an historical right-wing movement.” It seemed like a ridiculous level of hubris coming from a then-23-year-old who had been kicked off both mainstream and conservative social media platforms, but just 10 months later, he was sitting down to dinner with two of the country’s most prominent political and cultural figures: former President Donald Trump and musician/businessman Kanye West, now known as Ye.
Even without the presence of the virulently bigoted and extremist Fuentes, the timing of Ye’s dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home would have been troubling. Ye had already begun a well-publicized descent into conspiracy theories and antisemitism. Since the widely condemned dinner, Ye’s antisemitic and anti-democratic entourage has grown even larger, with comic Owen Benjamin joining Fuentes, Stop the Steal’s Ali Alexander, and former Breitbart enfant terrible Milo Yiannopoulos.
On Dec. 1, Ye and Fuentes appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ online show for about three hours. Ye engaged in Holocaust denial and repeatedly expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and Nazis, batting away every effort by Jones to downplay those comments, and repeated claims about his alleged persecution at the hands of “Zionists.” The brutally antisemitic Fuentes happily agreed, claiming among other things that Jewish scriptures justify pedophilia. Jones, meanwhile, claimed that Fuentes had been unfairly mischaracterized by the media—which is certainly not the case. Andrew Torba, the intensely antisemitic founder of Gab, a social media platform favored by far-right extremists, was giddy about the program, proclaiming ,”Overton Window: shattered. Obliterated. Never going back.”
On the InfoWars set, Ye praised Fuentes, suggesting that the 24-year-old would be president one day. Both wrapped their messages in claims to be speaking for Jesus Christ. Ye passed his phone around so that Jones and others in the studio could tweet messages to his more than 32 million followers, a huge promotional boon to Fuentes.
Ye devoting his huge platform to promoting antisemitism and promoters of Christian nationalist authoritarianism is very bad news. Possibly even worse has been Trump’s so-far adamant refusal to disavow Ye or Fuentes or their extremism in spite of repeated demands that he do so, even from his political allies. For white nationalists, the lack of denunciation read as an endorsement. Far-right authoritarian Vincent James, the treasurer of Fuentes’s America First organization, exulted this week that Trump’s refusal to disavow Fuentes was evidence that the group has successfully “infiltrated the mainstream flank of the GOP,” predicting that if Trump returns to the White House, Fuentes could be “the new Stephen Miller.”
Other Republican leaders have not covered themselves in glory, either, with many refusing to criticize Trump for the meeting, and others doing so only after days of pained silence.
Ye’s decision to use his time and cultural reach to spread extreme antisemitism comes during a time of rising violence and harassment against Jews in the U.S. He is promoting an extreme version of an already aggressive, exclusionary, and authoritarian Christian nationalism that undermines core American principles of pluralism, religious liberty, and church-state separation. His trajectory, and the platform he is offering to Fuentes and a growing group of far-right figures grabbing onto his media coattails, threatens to further normalize bigotry and undermine democracy.
Background: Where Did Nick Fuentes Come From?
Fuentes began building an online audience as an alt-right YouTuber while he was a teenager and college student. Right Wing Watch has covered him since 2017, the year in which he traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the notorious white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally at which a counterprotester was murdered.
Trump’s election energized white nationalists like Fuentes, and when Trump was defeated by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Fuentes was among the first to join Ali Alexander’s so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign to overturn the election. America First flags flew on the grounds of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, and members of the movement have been charged and convicted with breaching the Capitol. Fuentes himself had VIP seating at Trump’s rally that day before joining the crowd that marched on the Capitol.
Fuentes’ enthusiastic participation in Stop the Steal helped him build connections within the MAGA movement, which he has used in an effort to spread and normalize his white nationalist and Christian nationalist beliefs. During a livestream show in which Fuentes referred to Jan. 6 as “U.S. Patriot Day,” Fuentes put it this way: receiving a subpoena from the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol provides him credibility, he said, and will help him get out his message about “white genocide.”
Fuentes reportedly came to Ye’s attention via Yiannopoulos, who is working on Ye’s campaign. A former Breitbart editor and gay right-wing cultural provocateur, Yiannopoulos now describes himself as an ex-gay and has become a militantly hard-right Catholic activist. Yiannopoulos, who interned with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s congressional office this year, was also credited with getting Greene to speak at Fuentes’s AFPAC conference. Yiannopoulos recently shared on his Telegram account a post in which Torba slammed Trump for “continuing to suck the boots of the Jewish powers that be who hate Jesus Christ, hate our country, and see us all as disposable cattle according to their ‘holy’ book.”
Normalizing Bigotry and Far-Right Extremism
As Torba exulted after the appearance of Ye and Fuentes on InfoWars, the elevation of Fuentes has the effect of normalizing his extremism and expanding his reach. Having been kicked off major social media platforms, Fuentes now operates his own streaming platform, Cozy.tv, which he uses to promote bigotry and espouse an extreme Christian nationalism, saying that Jews “hate Christ,” should be banned from holding office, and in fact should “get the fuck out” of this country. He has also invited other far-right extremists to use the Cozy.tv platform.
Fuentes also gleefully promotes anti-Black stereotypes and racism. During his livestream he has used the N-word and defended his use of it. He has declared, “Generation Z has got to recover the wisdom of our racist grandparents.” Fuentes often adopts a joking tone, making use of an alt-right strategy and Trumpian tactic of using humor and irony as cover for bigotry and extremism—even Holocaust denial—to court young white men to his ideology.
Fuentes has enmeshed his message with the rhetoric of the MAGA movement by adopting the “America First” rhetoric of the Trump campaign, a political slogan deployed by nativist, antisemitic, and fascist activists during the first part of the 20th century. Like former Trump aide Steve Bannon, Fuentes positions himself as being at war with establishment Republicans not sufficiently committed to an “America First” agenda. In December 2020, Fuentes warned that if the GOP did not do everything possible to keep Trump in power, “We are going to destroy the GOP.”
In December 2021, Elijah Schaffer, a former podcaster and host on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, gave Fuentes hours of time to spread his ideology via Schaffer’s ”Slightly Offensive” podcast and the “You Are Here” show, sympathetically characterizing Fuentes as having been mistreated and misrepresented by mainstream media. In his conversations with Schaffer, Fuentes took credit for pushing Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, another right-wing youth organizer with whom Fuentes has feuded, further to the right on immigration issues, and he celebrated Fox News powerhouse Tucker Carlson’s increasingly unabashed embrace of white nationalist rhetoric like the racist “great replacement” theory. In those interviews and his own livestreamed musings, Fuentes has highlighted his cozy relationships with far-right politicians, his role in the so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign, his white nationalism and Christian nationalism, his authoritarian views, his misogyny, and his efforts to bring the GOP further to the right. “You Are Here” show, sympathetically characterizing Fuentes as having been mistreated and misrepresented by mainstream media. In his conversations with Schaffer, Fuentes took credit for pushing Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, another right-wing youth organizer with whom Fuentes has feuded, further to the right on immigration issues, and he celebrated Fox News powerhouse Tucker Carlson’s increasingly unabashed embrace of white nationalist rhetoric like the racist “great replacement” theory. In those interviews and his own livestreamed musings, Fuentes has highlighted his cozy relationships with far-right politicians, his role in the so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign, his white nationalism and Christian nationalism, his authoritarian views, his misogyny, and his efforts to bring the GOP further to the right.
Fuentes’ Cozy Relationship with Right-Wing Politicians
While Fuentes’ extremism and overt white nationalism have gotten him kicked off social media platforms, including the GETTR site run by former Trump aide Jason Miller, he has developed relationships close to some prominent right-wing Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Trump-endorsed Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers.
At this year’s AFPAC conference, Greene was the honored guest, while Gosar, Rogers, and Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin sent video greetings. Gosar attended previous AFPAC gatherings in person. Greene has vigorously defended her decision to address the gathering, but recently, after days of critical media coverage of the recent Mar-a-Lago dinner, Greene declared that “of course” she denounced Fuentes and “his racists and antisemitic ideology.”
Fuentes is also adored by Rogers, the far-right Arizona state senator. In her video message to this year’s AFPAC, she told the groypers, “You and your fellow patriots are the future.” Just two months earlier, Fuentes had praised Rogers as “so freaking BASED,” and she responded by thanking him and declaring, “We love you.” Gosar cheered them on, an example of what Political Research Associates’ Ben Lorber calls a “call-and-response” relationship between Fuentes and his groypers and the rest of the MAGA right.
Fuentes’ relationship with MAGA stars like Gosar and Rogers has opened up the door for more white nationalists. At a satellite event organized by far-right groups during Turning Point USA’s gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, in December 2021, GOP figures mingled with an array of extremists, including “groypers” ideologically aligned with Fuentes.
Stop the Steal and Jan. 6
When it became clear that Trump would not accept his defeat in the presidential election, Fuentes was quick to respond to far-right activist Ali Alexander’s call to “stop the steal,” which gave Fuentes an opportunity to rub shoulders and share speaking platforms with other MAGA activists.
In November 2020, Fuentes spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Arizona state capitol flanked by a U.S. flag emblazoned with his America First group’s logo. In a video posted by a local branch of the Arizona GOP, he claimed that “the Democrats hate us” and denounced the “globalist establishment that runs this country.” The following month, he organized a rally at the Pennsylvania state capitol, as he explained in a tweet, “to DEMAND that the State Legislature send their electors to vote for Trump!”
On Jan. 6, 2021, Fuentes was seated in the VIP section at Trump’s pre-insurrection rally and attended the protest outside the U.S. Capitol. The next month, he described the event in his keynote address at the America First Political Action Conference. He told the gathered groypers that when he saw patriots surrounding the building and police retreating, and heard that politicians were ”scurrying” to safety, “I said to myself, ‘This is awesome!’” Fuentes added, “We have been beat up and betrayed and spit on, stepped on, for decades, and to see the tables turned for once was a little bit refreshing actually.”
On the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, he celebrated it as “part of our new heritage.” After the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack subpoenaed Fuentes, he declared, “I’m trying to get out a very important message about white genocide and the destruction of our people.” Gosar posted in defense of “young conservative Christians like Nick Fuentes,” calling the subpoena “pure political persecution.”
Fuentes and Christian Nationalism
While Fuentes is most frequently described as a white nationalist, he is also an ardent Christian nationalist, a trait he shares with many religious-right leaders and influential Republican political operatives. Fuentes’ belief that Christianity, like whiteness, is essential to American culture and identity was on display at the 2021 America First Political Action Conference. If America loses its “white demographic core,” he warned the audience, “and if it loses its faith in Jesus Christ, this is not America anymore.”
“America is a Christian nation,” Fuentes said. “And that’s not just a slogan. When I say that America is a Christian nation, I’m saying that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and this is one nation under that God.” The crowd erupted more than once in chants of “Christ is King!” a battle cry also heard at Stop the Steal rallies, and a phrase Ali Alexander included in his Dec. 1 tweet from Ye’s phone.
Unlike many religious-right leaders, Fuentes does not try to make his Christian nationalism more politically palatable by using the label “Judeo-Christian” to describe the U.S. Far from it. On his Jan. 7 show, he said “We need people who are true believers, true lovers of God and of Jesus Christ—that is who we need leading the country.” He added that the country needs more people who will stand up and say, “I will never betray my country. I will never betray my people. I will never betray my moral convictions. And I will never betray my Lord and my savior and his name, his sacred name, Jesus Christ.’ And we’re going to say ‘Jesus Christ,’ not this, you know, ‘Judeo-Christian’ stuff. I spit, I spit on that.”
Fuentes vehemently denounces what he sees as the excessive influence of Zionism in the conservative movement and has a habit of pointing out media and conservative figures who are Jewish. He once railed against right-wing activist and Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh as a “Shabbos goy race traitor,” adding, “you work for Jews, you know.”
Fuentes shares with other Christian nationalists a penchant for describing current political struggles as a war between good and evil. “Never forget the people that are in charge, what they’re doing is wrong, we’re on the right side of history,” he told Schaffer in that Dec. 3 podcast interview. “This is not ambiguous. It is black and white. They are evil. And we, though imperfect, are the side that is professing a faith in Jesus Christ. We are the side that loves our country. We are the side that supports perennial traditional values.”
Fuentes: Christian Authoritarianism Preferable to Democracy
Fuentes’s Christian nationalism is intertwined with his expressed preference for Christian authoritarianism. One of the troubling findings from recent social science research on Christian nationalism is evidence that holding strong Christian nationalist views is strongly correlated not only with support for Trump and belief in the Big Lie, but also with the idea that authoritarian rule may be preferable to democratic rule and that violence might be necessary to achieve that rule by right-wing leaders.
Fuentes told Schaffer and his Blaze co-hosts last year that if Donald Trump had become a “tyrant,” refusing to step down, ignoring what Congress or the courts said, and declaring that he was going to stay in office for three terms, Fuentes would “be in favor of that 100 percent.” He said he fundamentally disagrees with conservatives who might be unhappy with the outcome of the election but supported the transition of power. Such people, he said, were “sacrificing the country” to “this so-called democracy and equality” rather than “have order, than have prosperity, than have excellence, than live in a great country.”
During the same show, he mused on Christian authoritarianism:
Specifically, when we think about what kind of government is best, or what we should have, you know, I look at, like, Christianity, I look at the Bible. In Heaven, it’s ordered as a kingdom, you know, it’s the kingdom of Heaven. It’s not the republic of Heaven. It’s not the state of Heaven. It’s a kingdom, there’s a king, and the authority and the unity of that authority proceeds from one rule.
And the church, the Catholic Church is structured this way, you know, the papacy, you’ve got one Pope at the top, and the unity of the dogma proceeds from him. And I think that similarly, a nation has to be structured this way, because human society is hierarchical, and people have to be ruled. And I believe that ultimately, there has to be authority for there to be law, for there to be order, for there to be any kind of semblance of coherence in a nation.
[T]he problem is not that there is power, that there is authority. There will always be authority. There has to be authority. The question is, who is going to wield it? And, you know, right-wing people have to do that, which is why I said earlier if Trump became like, you know, the Caesar of America, hypothetically, if he had got in in ’16 and said, ‘You know what, I’m not leaving. And the courts tell me that I have to leave, well, I’ll disobey them,’ and he went full, you know, Andrew Jackson, I would support it. I wouldn’t say, ‘This is authoritarianism. This is in principle wrong.’ I would say, ‘This is the right man for the job. This is a rightful ruler of America.’ And, you know, and I would be OK with that.
The support for authoritarianism isn’t just theoretical either. Fuentes joins many U.S. religious-right leaders in admiring Russian leader Vladimir Putin as well as Hungary’s strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has squelched dissent, eliminated checks and balances, and consolidated power in pursuit of his Christian nationalist vision.
Fuentes finds “Christian autocratic rule” an appealing alternative to liberal democracy, telling Schaffer, “This experiment of overthrowing the kings and overthrowing the gods—it’s been a complete disaster.”
Fuentes, Misogyny and Incel Culture
Fuentes, who frequently expresses his contempt for women and has repeatedly described himself as an incel, focuses on “red-pilling” young men, who he says are his target audience. Incel culture, which fosters misogyny among young men online, has been linked to multiple acts of violence against women.
Fuentes has joked about and cheered on domestic violence. During a Feb. 9 livestream, he said he thought it was “hilarious” when former NFL player Ray Rice beat up his fiancé, even as he called it “over the line.” He added that he supported musician Chris Brown when he assaulted Rihanna. Moments later, he said he is “against hitting women” just as he opposes war and other things that are “sometimes necessary.”
During his interview with Schaffer last December, Fuentes declared that he is “not a fan” of women, whom he considers “not fully rational.” He said he would consider getting married in order to produce a male heir to carry on his legacy. But he didn’t like the idea of living with a “nagging” woman for the rest of his life, adding that the idea was “a little nightmarish to me.”
Fuentes suggested that his preference would be to have women in the U.S. treated as they are in Saudi Arabia or in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Asked how gay people would be treated in an America run according to his wishes, he suggested it would be more like Russia, whose anti-LGBTQ laws have been warmly praised by American religious-right leaders.
Shifting the Right to the Right
Fuentes has explicitly stated that his strategy is to shift the entire right-wing movement further to the right, dragging the center and left in that direction as well. He and other extremists are working to make that happen by insinuating themselves into battles being waged by other camps of right-wing activists, including opposition to vaccine requirements, masks in schools, “critical race theory,” and LGBTQ-affirming policies. Fuentes gloated to Schaffer that TPUSA’s Kirk adopted more strident anti-immigrant positions since groypers publicly criticized Kirk on the issue, while acknowledging that Kirk may also have been following the lead of Fox News’s Tucker Carlson.
In a profile of Fuentes earlier this year, Political Research Associates’ Ben Lorber noted that Fuentes’ groypers “have become a countercultural presence, especially on the nationalist flank of the broader Gen Z Right, leaving their imprint on the culture—and with it, the politics—of a rising generation of conservative leaders.”
While Fuentes is persona non grata among many conservatives—he is banned from attending the Conservative Political Action Conference and Turning Point USA events—the influence of white nationalism can be seen everywhere from Fox News to the floor of Congress. And that was before Fuentes began reaping massive publicity from associating himself with Ye.
Less than two years after Rep. Steve King was stripped of his committee assignments for comments defending white nationalism, Rep. Gosar has received little pushback and no punishment from his colleagues for publicly embracing Fuentes and speaking at his conference. (When Gosar was stripped of his committee assignments late last year, it was for sharing an animated video portraying himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.) Incoming Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy has pledged to fully embrace Greene.
A week after Trump’s dinner with Fuentes, PBS NewsHour asked 57 Republican lawmakers if they would condemn the dinner, noting that GOP leaders had been “overwhelmingly” silent on the topic over the Thanksgiving weekend. Most did not respond, and among those who did, many made general condemnations of antisemitism without criticism Trump directly.
At the beginning of this year, Fuentes bragged on his streaming show that he had raised an “insane” amount of money for his Feb. 25 America First Political Action Conference, adding that people who fund the conference are also contributing to his America First Foundation’s plant to build a new “facility” with a studio.
Fuentes said then that America First would be doing “a lot of campaigning” in the 2022 midterm elections, adding that he had already spoken with “three or four major congressional candidates that we are going to be backing—phone-banking, door-knocking, monetary support, PACs, the works.” A week later, he claimed, “America First has allies in Congress, will be hosting a 1,000-person conference this February, has built its own censorship-proof streaming platform, controls conservative chapters on over 20 campuses and will be deploying hundreds of volunteers to five states this year for the midterms. 2022 is our year. We run this.”
It’s not clear how much of this was just bluster. Fuentes did speak with Joe Kent, the Trump-endorsed candidate who unseated Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Butler in this year’s GOP primary. When Fuentes began bragging about their conversation, Kent publicly distanced himself, but his association with Fuentes remained an issue in his campaign. Kent was defeated in the general election.
In October, when Fuentes was buoyed by visions of a “red wave” that would sweep Republicans into power and set the stage for Trump’s return to the White House after the 2024 elections, Fuentes pledged to spend the next two years raising an “army” of zealous groypers to infiltrate congressional and executive branch staff in preparation to take over the government from within.
An unknown number of groypers may also be following Fuentes’s encouragement to do the same with the Republican Party by running for positions in local party structures—a tactic also promoted by other far-right figures like Steve Bannon. During Fuentes’s Nov. 4 livestream, follower Alex Roncelli sent Fuentes a superchat message so he could brag about being elected as a GOP county chairman in Michigan.
After the far-right’s mostly dismal showing in the midterms, Fuentes fumed that the results were evidence of the need for a right-wing dictatorship to replace democracy. Since being drawn into Ye’s orbit and all-but-declared presidential campaign, Fuentes has stepped away from his daily livestream to make the most of the opportunity to use Ye’s cultural reach to spread his bigotry and extremism. He and Ye have big plans in the works; during the Dec. 1 InfoWars program, Ye told Jones that he and Fuentes are working on a new Constitution for the U.S.
The unwillingness of Trump and so many other Republican officials to disavow Fuentes even after his extremism was brought to light by national media are evidence that Fuentes and the “groypers” in his America First movement have indeed had success in insinuating themselves and their ideology into the Republican Party and broader right-wing movement. And with that newfound influence, they’re eager to bring the U.S. closer to their vision of a hard-right authoritarian government that imposes its vision on Americans and dominates its opponents “without mercy.”
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and appears here by permission.
Image by Evan El Amin via Shutterstock
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Will McConnell and Senate Republicans Use Feinstein’s Passing to Grind Biden’s Judicial Confirmations to a Halt?
The passing of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who served the people of California since 1970 in numerous roles, first at the local level, then as a Senator and Chair of powerful Committees, raises many questions about the future, including: What will Republicans, and especially Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, do? Will Democrats be able to replace her on the Senate’s powerful Judiciary Committee and Rules Committee?
Senator Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary Committee for much of this year has been in the news, largely due to her ill health. Some have said the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee prevented her from resigning.
There are more Republicans in the Senate (49) than Democrats (48, until Feinstein’s passing), but the three independents who generally vote with Democrats gave them a 51 vote “majority,” with the Senate President, Vice President Kamala Harris, casting the tie-breaking vote 31 times, as of July. Her 31st tie-breaking vote is matched only by one other Vice President, who also cast a total of 31 tie-breaking votes.
What happens now?
Does President Biden’s historic pace of appointing judges – more than the last three presidents at this point in their tenure, end, at least until 2025? As of July, President Biden has nominated and had confirmed more Black women judges (13) than all other U.S. President combined, and placed on the federal bench 44 Black judges in total. Does than also grind to a halt? He has placed on the federal bench at least 27 Hispanic judges. Earlier this year President Biden nominated two more Hispanic women judges. UC Santa Barbara’s The American Presidency Project noted, “if both are confirmed, President Biden will have confirmed more Latina circuit judges than any President in history.” It also noted, Biden “has nominated 27 AA and NHPI individuals to federal judgeships and 20 have been confirmed. This includes six AA and NHPI circuit court judges.”
And what happens if a U.S. Supreme Court Justice dies or retires?
In April, PBS NewsHour reported, “Republicans blocked a Democratic request to temporarily replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, leaving Democrats with few options for moving some of President Joe Biden’s stalled judicial nominees.”
“South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to a resolution offered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that would have allowed another senator to take Feinstein’s place on the panel while the Democrat recuperates from a case of shingles. Republicans have argued that Democrats only want a stand-in to push through the most partisan judges, noting that many of Biden’s nominees have bipartisan support and can move to the Senate floor for a vote.”
Minority Leader McConnell also made clear his objections at the time.
“’Let’s be clear,’ said McConnell in remarks on the Senate floor. ‘Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees.'”
Given McConnell’s history, including refusing to even allow then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to get a confirmation hearing, much less an up-or-down vote, it might seem unlikely he will allow Senator Feinstein to be replaced on any Committee.
But, NewsHour’s April reporting may now give Democrats some hope.
“If Feinstein were to resign immediately, the process would be much easier for Democrats, since California Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint a replacement. The Senate regularly approves committee assignments for new senators after their predecessors have resigned or died. But a temporary replacement due to illness is a rare, if not unprecedented, request.”
Sen. Feinstein also served on several powerful Committees, including Intelligence, Appropriations, and especially the Rules Committee.
Will Republicans allow Senator Feinstein’s replacement to serve on Judiciary, and the other Committees as well?
California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom “must now appoint someone to the U.S. Senate ahead of next year’s election. He has long said he would appoint a Black woman if Feinstein did not finish her term, but he recently specified on ‘Meet the Press’ that he would do so as an ‘interim appointment,'” The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. “Only one of the top three candidates to replace Feinstein, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, is a Black woman. Polls have shown Lee trailing two opponents, Reps. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.”
“Republicans have said they would block Democrats from replacing Feinstein on the committee, which must approve President Biden’s judicial nominees,” The Chronicle added. “Newsom has said that without her, Democrats — losing their committee majority — might not be able to get any more federal judges through Congress this term.”
“’I have to remind my friends and progressive colleagues,’ Newsom told reporters last month, ‘if she does resign and the governor, I guess me, appoints someone, we may not get another federal judge out of the Judiciary Committee.’”
Some experts disagree with “conventional wisdom.”
“The claim that Republicans can and will block DiFi’s [Senator Feinstein’s] replacement on the Senate Judiciary Committee was pulled out of thin air by Democrats seeking a pretext to defend her refusal to retire. It is almost certainly false, and it’s irresponsible to promote this claim as a certainty,” Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who writes about the courts and the law, said Friday.
“Democrats confirmed nearly 100 Biden judges with an evenly divided SJC [Senate Judiciary Committee],” Stern adds. “It just takes somewhat longer.”
Politico on Friday reported, “Democrats will need 60 votes to appoint a senator to fill Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary panel, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to vote in favor of filling Democrats’ majority on the panel, assuming they move to do so before someone is appointed to the California Senate seat.”
“Senators are typically assigned to committees by unanimous consent, but such orders are subject to debate and can be filibustered. Republican senators could slow, or stop, Democrats from filling the Judiciary roster,” Politico added. “The panel, under Democratic control, has been advancing scores of judicial nominations that Republicans object to. Leaving the panel short one Democratic vote would hamper the majority’s steady confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominees.”
Back in June, amid clamor from some progressives for Sen. Feinstein to step down, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warned, “The fact is simple: if Senator Feinstein resigns, Mitch McConnell gets to decide whether Democrats have a Senate Judiciary majority.”
‘I Am Far Too Busy to Be Prosecuted’: Legal Experts Mock Trump’s Request for Indefinite Suspension of Trial
Some legal and national security experts were stunned when attorneys for Donald Trump filed a near-midnight motion requesting U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon indefinitely delay setting a date for his trial in the classified documents case.
At 11:30 PM, just 30 minutes before the deadline, Trump’s attorneys told Judge Cannon, “there is most assuredly no reason for any expedited trial, and the ends of justice are best served by a continuance.”
Technically, Trump’s legal team of four attorneys are asking Cannon to deny the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s trial schedule, and withdraw her own schedule which includes pre-trial conference dates during which attorneys and the judge discuss critical details of the case.
In their overnight filing, Trump’s attorneys suggest that the trial is political, but also, because he is running for elected office against the sitting President of the United States, he is far too busy to deal with being a defendant.
“President Trump is running for president of the United States and is currently the likely Republican Party nominee,” the motion reads. “This undertaking requires a tremendous amount of time and energy, and that effort will continue until the election on Nov. 5, 2024.”
Pointing to Trump’s co-defendant, Walt Nauta, they add: “Mr. Nauta’s job requires him to accompany President Trump during most campaign trips around the country. This schedule makes trial preparation with both of the Defendants challenging. Such preparation requires significant planning and time, making the current schedule untenable and counseling in favor of a continuance.”
They claim it will be difficult, and time-consuming, to seat an impartial jury, especially because of the presidential election.
The attorneys write, “even Department of Justice policy cautions against taking prosecutorial action for the purpose of affecting an election or helping a candidate or party.”
Donald Trump, it has been widely reported, announced he was running for president because he thought it would prevent him from being prosecuted. And The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, as recently as today, wrote: “Lawyers for Trump, whose advisers are blunt in private that they see winning the election is the key to making the case against him disappear, began the process of delaying the documents trial.”
The New York Times, in that article co-authored by Haberman, adds that Trump’s “lawyers strongly hinted that they were going to fight the government during the pretrial litigation over classified material, a process that could take up significant amounts of time.”
“In general,” the lawyers’ motion reads, “the defendants believe there should simply be no ‘secret’ evidence, nor any facts concealed from public view relative to the prosecution of a leading presidential candidate by his political opponent.”
“Our democracy demands no less than full transparency,” they claim.
Trump’s attorneys also suggest they intend “to challenge some of the charges he is facing by arguing that the Presidential Records Act permitted Mr. Trump to take documents with him from the White House,” The Times reports. They also “suggested that they might raise ‘constitutional and statutory challenges’ to Mr. Smith’s authority as special counsel.”
In response to the news Trump is trying to delay the trial, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who is generally reserved in her commentary, overnight tweeted: “Shocker. Trump doesn’t want to ever go to trial.”
Brad Moss, a top national security attorney, was even less reserved in his response to the news. He tweeted, “Criminal defendants in court today: Apologies, Your Honor, but I am far too busy to be prosecuted right now. I’m going to have to ask you to indefinitely postpone my trial.”
But Barb McQuade, also a former U.S. Attorney, appeared to have anticipated this move.
“To no one’s surprise, Trump’s lawyers filed a brief late last night in documents case seeking delay in trial date,” she wrote Tuesday morning. “Judge Cannon has a lot of power here to keep the trial on track. What’s the over/under for a trial before the Nov 2024 election?”
“While the arguments that Trump makes are not only anathema to the Constitution,” Adam Cohen, vice chair of Lawyers for Good Government notes, “And also contrary to his ‘lock her up’ chants in 2016…Remember-he makes this motion to Judge Cannon…Who previously decided Trump should be held to a different standard than the rest of America.”
Meanwhile, Marcy Wheeler, a national security and civil liberties journalist, suggests Trump’s attorneys are attempting to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.
There are two parts of the Trump filing that journos REALLY ought to call out as BS. First, this line, which suggests, “Golly, DOJ had a year to investigate, why can’t I have a year to defend myself.”
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) July 11, 2023
“Trump literally got access to the docs he stole by stating, over and over, that there was no more important thing than protecting classified information. He promised voters he’d keep them safe. That’s how he won,” she reminds.
Pointing to the indictment, she adds:
Trump won in 2016 by chanting “lock her up” over and over and over. It’s right there in the indictment — he got elected promising to take care of classified information. THAT’s the exigency. pic.twitter.com/cPjOAPV1Fr
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) July 11, 2023
Wheeler, in her Twitter thread, also heavily criticized The New York Times’ reporting, and issued a warning to journalists: “You don’t have to just repeat Trump’s claims about how an election prevents him from going to trial w/o noting that he GOT ELECTED in 2016 by insisting on the urgency of criminal prosecution for mishandling classified information.”
Read the tweets above or at this link.
Image: Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock
Sotomayor Slams ‘Embarrassing’ SCOTUS Anti-LGBTQ Decision That Marks ‘Gays and Lesbians for Second-Class Status’
Only on occasion do U.S. Supreme Court Justices read their opinions aloud from the bench. But on Friday Justice Sonia Sotomayor did just that, reading aloud her 38-page dissent to the majority’s 6-3 ruling in favor of a Christian anti-LGBTQ business owner, Lori Smith, who claimed Colorado’s anti-discrimination law prevented her from expanding her design business to include weddings because she refuses to provide that service to same-sex couples. The case is 303 Creative vs. Elenis.
The Court ruled that, “The First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees.”
In her dissent Justice Sotomayor exposed some of the many harms that ruling will cause, and called the “logic” in the majority opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, “embarrassing.”
“The majority protests that Smith will gladly sell her goods and services to anyone, including same-sex couples,” she wrote. “She just will not sell websites for same-sex weddings. Apparently, a gay or lesbian couple might buy a wedding website for their straight friends. This logic would be amusing if it were not so embarrassing.”
Pointing to a separate legal case, she continues to mock the conservative justices, saying: “I suppose the Heart of Atlanta Motel could have argued that Black people may still rent rooms for their white friends.”
Her dissent also offered a great deal of support and acknowledgment of LGBTQ people and their struggles — past and current.
“Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. Her dissent was joined by the remaining two liberals on the bench, Justices Elena Sagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“The Supreme Court of the United States declares that a particular kind of business, though open to the public, has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class. The Court does so for the first time in its history. By issuing this new license to discriminate in a case brought by a company that seeks to deny same-sex couples the full and equal enjoyment of its services, the immediate, symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status.”
“In this way, the decision itself inflicts a kind of stigmatic harm, on top of any harm caused by denials of service. The opinion of the Court is, quite literally, a notice that reads: ‘Some services may be denied to same-sex couples.'”
Justice Sotomayor goes on to acknowledge that “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, no less than anyone else, deserve that dignity and freedom. The movement for LGBT rights, and the resulting expansion of state and local laws to secure gender and sexual minorities’ full and equal enjoyment of publicly available goods and services, is the latest chapter of this great American story.”
“LGBT people have existed for all of human history. And as sure as they have existed, others have sought to deny their existence, and to exclude them from public life. Those who would subordinate LGBT people have often done so with the backing of law.”
Justice Sotomayor began her dissent by reminding her fellow justices, “Five years ago, this Court recognized the ‘general rule’ that religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage ‘do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
“The Court also recognized the ‘serious stigma’ that would result if ‘purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons’ were ‘allowed to put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’ ‘ ”
Adding that, “a public accommodations law ensures equal dignity in the common market,” Sotomayor’s empathy continues:
“Around the country, there has been a backlash to the movement for liberty and equality for gender and sexual minorities. New forms of inclusion have been met with reactionary exclusion. This is heartbreaking. Sadly, it is also familiar. When the civil rights and women’s rights movements sought equality in public life, some public establishments refused. Some even claimed, based on sincere religious beliefs, constitutional rights to discriminate. The brave Justices who once sat on this Court decisively rejected those claims.”
Justice Sotomayor also ensured her concerns were supported by real-life, actual examples.
Citing case law, she states:
When a young Jewish girl and her parents come across a business with a sign out front that says, “ ‘No dogs or Jews allowed,’” the fact that another business might serve her family does not redress that “stigmatizing injury,” … Or, put another way, “the hardship Jackie Robinson suffered when on the road” with his base- ball team “was not an inability to find some hotel that would have him; it was the indignity of not being allowed to stay in the same hotel as his white teammates.”
Sotomayor continues, writing, “imagine a funeral home in rural Mississippi agrees to transport and cremate the body of an elderly man who has passed away, and to host a memorial lunch. Upon learning that the man’s surviving spouse is also a man, however, the funeral home refuses to deal with the family.”
“Grief stricken, and now isolated and humiliated, the family desperately searches for another funeral home that will take the body. They eventually find one more than 70 miles away.”
Sotomayor also offers another example, which does not appear to be from case law.
“A professional photographer is generally free to choose her subjects. She can make a living taking photos of flowers or celebrities. The State does not regulate that choice. If the photographer opens a portrait photography business to the public, however, the business may not deny to any person, because of race, sex, national origin, or other protected characteristic, the full and equal enjoyment of whatever services the business chooses to offer. That is so even though portrait photography services are customized and expressive. If the business offers school photos, it may not deny those services to multiracial children because the owner does not want to create any speech indicating that interracial couples are acceptable. If the business offers corporate headshots, it may not deny those services to women because the owner believes a woman’s place is in the home. And if the business offers passport photos, it may not deny those services to Mexican Americans because the owner opposes immigration from Mexico,” she writes. “The same is true for sexual-orientation discrimination.”
In her conclusion, Justice Sotomayor writes, “The unattractive lesson of the majority opinion is this: What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours. The lesson of the history of public accommodations laws is altogether different. It is that in a free and democratic society, there can be no social castes. And for that to be true, it must be true in the public market. For the ‘promise of freedom’ is an empty one if the Government is ‘powerless to assure that a dollar in the hands of [one person] will purchase the same thing as a dollar in the hands of a[nother].'”
“Because the Court today retreats from that promise, I dissent.”
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