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Under Color of Law: November and December

By December 21, 2022News

Under the Scope:

The midterm election results demonstrated a path forward for our country as well as highlighted ongoing issues of law, policy and social justice.

Georgia, Another Run Off for the Battleground State:

Senator Warnock won his second run off in Georgia, securing 6 more years in the Senate and the majority for the Democrats, despite the fact that the run-off process in Georgia is itself descended from racist efforts to suppress black representation.  Georgia has seen some of the harshest voter suppression policies in the United States but was still able to mobilize for success in this election, but this model isn’t sustainable. Warnock’s win means senators  Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin will have diminished power to hold legislation hostage. Senator Sinema declared herself an independent, which many felt was some sort of protest to these results but more likely it had to do with the likelihood that she would lose a Democratic primary to Ruben Gallego. Herschel Walker’s concession made his election denial beliefs plain by referencing how “numbers not adding up.”  The  run-off also shines a light on  GOP fundraising practices, which mislead about where funds ultimately end up and should be scrutinized for illegalities. 

While election denial seems to have become a hallmark of the GOP, Trump’s favorite election denier candidates did not do well – losing in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania,  Kari Lake in Arizona, Tim Michels in Wisconsin, Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.

Moore v Harper

In Moore v. Harper—argued on Wednesday, Dec. 7—the Supreme Court will decide whether to resurrect the previously dead “Independent State Legislature Theory”–in a way that some commentators believe may pose “an existential threat to our democracy” and could enable “the Republican blueprint to steal the 2024 election. The case is so controversial that more than 70 amicus briefs –“friends of the court”– have been submitted, including everyone from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the ACLU, with 48 of them being opposed to the legitimacy of the ISLT. Read more about my take in Daily Beast

Attorney General Races

The role of Attorney General is often conflated with other local positions, such as District Attorney, Governor and other down ballot offices. Depending on the state and infrastructure, the amount of sway varies but the official purpose of the AG office is to advise and represent their legislature and state agencies and act as the “People’s Lawyer” for the citizens. This midterm election, there were 30 Attorney General races across the country, with the most contentious based on previous political history being Idaho, Texas, Georgia, Kansas, Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, and Colorado. This position is critical for one of two reasons, the first being Attorney General is a perfect litmus test for the political inclinations of the state. Ken Paxton in Texas was able to safely secure the GOP nomination and the retain his incumbency despite his indictment for alleged securities fraud and an FBI investigation over abuse of office. On the other side of the aisle, Keith Ellison in Minnesota was able to retain his incumbency with a very large margin of success despite GOP intense financial backing for his opposition, in retaliation for his role in the Chauvin prosection. The second reason is the AG sets the standard for prosecution in a state, and in recent years have grown increasingly weaponized based on party affiliation, being able to decide supposedly non partisan issues like abortion and voting rights. In states like Arizona, where there is a 121 year old legislation on abortion, Attorney Generals make decisions that impact every constituent on an invasive level as illustrated in the fight over Florida’s law prohibiting classroom instruction about gender identity – the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that is supported by Republican Attorney Generals in 14 states.

Is Trump running to avoid an indictment and could it work?

The Justice Department’s pace in investigating Trump could allow him to delay any criminal charges and trial until after he serves out a second term or even again raise the bizarre spectacle of him trying to pardon himself.  But even without winning a second term, Trump’s status as a former President appears to have worked delay in his favor.  Even Attorney General Garland’s appointment of a Special Counsel in an effort to depoliticize DOJ necessarily added some delay to the process.  The Mar-a-Lago case appears more straightforward than the Jan 6 coup case but even there the DOJ seems stuck in a mode more akin to negotiations in a civil case than a hard-charging criminal investigation.  For example, even after the DOJ endured months of stonewalling from Trump’s team before finally declaring enough was enough – eventually seeking and executing a search warrant that turned up some 100 classified documents. Despite this confirmation of what would seem to be the worst fears about Trump possessing national security documents, prosecutors then allowed Trump’s team to conduct further searches—that most recently turned up two additional documents in a storage unit leased from the Government Services Administration. Prosecutors, of course, cannot control whether Trump and his team comply in good faith with grand jury subpoenas and negotiations. But they do control when negotiations end and criminal charges start. Read more about my insights here.

The FIFA World Cup, Controversy Over the Wrong Issue

The FIFA World Cup took place in a Muslim country for the first time, causing all kinds of controversy from the banning of alcohol to the poor state of LGBT+ rights in the Gulf to the overwhelming support for Palestine by almost every country. Unfortunately, there has been little coverage over some of the more exploitative aspects of the sporting event, like the amount of migrant laborers who died under Qatar’s indentured servitude system. With laborers coming in undocumented from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kenya and the Philippines to build 100 new hotels, 7 stadiums and an entirely new metro system for the country the size of Connecticut in Qatar’s 120 degree heat, there must be far more than the 34 reported deaths on site Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the king of Qatar, is taking notes from MBS and placing a financial incentive on overlooking the exploitative conditions the rich Gult country has for those who don’t qualify for citizenship. Sports is another big business industry that trades profits over human rights violations. 

Iran Human Rights Violation

The conditions in Iran continue to escalate as the country protests after the murder of Mahsa Afsini by the morality police. Enormous demonstrations have erupted in every major city with girls cutting off their hair and burning hijabs as a symbol of solidarity and protest against the regime. There has been a severe lack of coverage from Western media outlets on this. The Iranian soccer team recently refused to sing the national anthem at the FIFA World Cup and were detained at the airport as a result. There has been no follow up on their circumstances. There has been large scale sexual violence by the regime in response, with accusations that they are sexually assaulting protestors before killing them to ensure they cannot enter heaven. This targeted violence is no new phenomena whether it be humiliating strip searches and assault at police stations in Hong Kong amidst the 2019 protests, sexual harassment to quell protests in Colombia in 2021, or staged rapes against protestors in South Sudan,  Rape and sexual assault are often used as militant tactics of quelling dissent and while the U.N. and Amnesty International have piles of documentation citing the correlation and horrors of this, history continues to repeat itself. 

December Notable Tweets:

(Notable tweets are sometimes one that got a lot of engagement and/or ones that deserve another look- please feel free to comment and share!):

https://twitter.com/shanlonwu/status/1601776795933888512?s=20&t=4Y6LtrRPYZHGqtyw943HxQ

https://twitter.com/shanlonwu/status/1601424567679188993?s=20&t=4Y6LtrRPYZHGqtyw943HxQ 

https://twitter.com/shanlonwu/status/1600967286424498176?s=20&t=4Y6LtrRPYZHGqtyw943HxQ

 

Please do let me and the team know what topics you would like to hear more from me about – look forward to hearing your voices!

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