In the news today: A new watchdog report finds that officials knew in advance that Congress itself was the “target” of Jan. 6 insurrectionists. The Republican Party continues to ponder retaliation against corporate critics. It’s a day that ends in “y”, and that means newly uncovered details about Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, drugs, and sex trafficking.

Here’s some of what you may have missed:

• Brutal watchdog report finds the Capitol Police knew ‘Congress itself is the target’ on Jan. 6

• Study finds not just a peak in far-right domestic terrorism, but rising involvement of veterans

• Nearly 80% of voters report getting stimulus payment; overwhelming majority say it was as expected

• As hundreds of corporate heavy hitters go to bat for voting rights, another GOP alliance falters

• Gaetz frantically promotes Project Veritas video to discredit reporting on his sex trafficking ties

From the community:

• Court Vindicates Black Officer Fired for Stopping Colleague’s Chokehold

• Hidden History: The Russian Woodpecker (No, It’s Not a Bird)

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Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, who serves as top Republican on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, announced Wednesday that he would not seek a 14th term representing Texas’ 8th Congressional District. This seat, which includes the suburbs and exurbs north of Houston, backed Donald Trump 71-28 in 2020, and there’s little question that it will remain safely red turf after the GOP-dominated legislature completes redistricting.

Brady acknowledged that he was leaving in part due to internal party term limits that would have cost him his committee post in the next Congress. As The Hill’s Scott Wong notes, though, the next-most senior Republican on the panel is none other than the infamous California Rep. Devin Nunes.

Brady got his start in elected office in 1990 when he won a seat in the state House, and sought a promotion in 1996 to an open congressional district in what turned out to be an unexpectedly long campaign. Gene Fontenot, a wealthy physician who had unsuccessfully sought a different House seat two years before, led the primary with 36% of the vote, while Brady beat out another candidate 22-16 for the second runoff spot.

Fontenot took Brady to task for voting against the state’s concealed weapons law the previous year. Brady explained at the time how his father had been murdered while trying a case in a South Dakota courtroom, saying, “I couldn’t look Mom in the eye and vote for this.” (Brady would later become an ardent supporter of concealed carry laws.)

Brady won the Republican nomination 53-47, but just two months later, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that four Texas congressional seats be redrawn for that year’s elections because of racial gerrymandering; the 8th District was not singled out, but its lines were also altered by the subsequent round of mid-decade redistricting. The state ultimately allowed all-party primaries to take place that November in the impacted seats, and Fontenot decided to run again.

Brady this time took first place with 41%, which was below the majority he needed to avoid a December runoff, while Fontenot was just behind with 40%. Their fourth bout of the year was another nasty affair, with Fontenot labeling his opponent “Shady Brady.” Major GOP establishment figures, including then-Gov. George W. Bush and Sens. Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, supported Brady, while Fontenot had the backing of social conservative leader Pat Robertson and defeated presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Brady finally got his seat by winning their overtime contest 59-41.

Brady spent much of his time in Congress as a fairly low-profile figure who was close to the party’s leadership. In late 2014, he lost an internal party battle with Paul Ryan for the right to chair the Ways and Means Committee; the Washington Post would say later that Brady had “been criticized by lobbyists for his lack-luster fundraising performance and relatively weak private-sector connections.”

Ryan ended up becoming speaker a year later, however, and this time, he supported Brady’s successful bid to replace him as chairman. Brady would later use his powerful perch to help push through Trump’s 2017 tax bill.

The only time Brady had a serious re-election fight was 2016, when he faced a primary challenge from former state Rep. Steve Toth. Toth campaigned as an anti-establishment Republican who argued that Brady was out of step with the district’s conservative values. Brady took the challenge seriously and massively outspent Toth to win 53-37. The incumbent had no trouble winning his final two terms afterward.

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President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. assistant attorney general began going through the very partisan vetting process of a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. Kristen Clarke will become the first woman of color to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in its 46-year existence. It’s an important position, highlighted by the recent national reporting on the continuing epidemic of Black citizen deaths at the hands of our country’s law enforcement apparatus. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) has lauded the nomination, saying that “Ms. Clarke is precisely the person to restore the original spirit of the Civil Rights Division. She has dedicated her entire career to the enforcement and expansion of civil rights. Her extensive record of civil rights advocacy and enforcement, as well as her deep commitment to justice and professional integrity, makes us confident in her ability to excel as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.”

The right wing of the country, having very little to offer but fear when it comes to race and civil rights discourse, has decided that the best way to attack Kristen Clarke’s nomination is to create the impression that she “hates white people.” It’s the old reverse racism argument used by racists, while they stare into the mirror with horror and fear of retribution for their sins. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, famous for voting against all of the things he tells the electorate he secretly didn’t want to vote for, seems to have been under the impression that he had a real gotcha question and piece of evidence to unveil during the committee hearing. He didn’t. And he looked as pathetic as you might expect.

Sen. Cornyn began by passive aggressively saying, “Well maybe there’s a misprint, but I’m sure you can clear it up for me,” before bringing out evidence that when she was a young student at Harvard, she “argued that African Americans were genetically superior to ah [sic] Caucasians. is that correct?” (I left in the “ah,” because John Cornyn put it in there.) Without knowing what John Cornyn is talking about I can very confidently say that no, that is not correct. But let’s watch Ms. Clarke try not to laugh out loud while giving a serious answer to a clown of a senator.

John Cornyn grills assistant attorney general nominee Kristen Clarke about an article she wrote for her college paper, seemingly oblivious to the fact it was satire pic.twitter.com/qMG3LNg2AO— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 14, 2021

How people don’t just say “What the [email protected]#$ are you talking about?” all day long to people like Sen. John Cornyn is beyond me. You can read the article in question, written as a letter to The Harvard Crimson editors. Even if you are a slow reader, the “letter” takes only a couple of minutes to read. Sen. Cornyn and his staff are either too lazy (catastrophically incompetent in their laziness in this case) or they have decided to pretend it isn’t very clearly a baroquely pseudoscientific attack on the unbelievably pseudoscientific dreck written in Murray’s The Bell Curve. In fact, after reading the scientific bullet points laying out why Black people are superior to everyone according to the shiftless criteria of The Bell Curve, Clarke wrote this in her op-ed’s summation.

Attacks on Black people such as those in The Bell Curve are not unique. Black children face this abuse daily through television shows, jokes aired on the radio, textbooks with truncated history, etc. Liberal whites underestimate the damage which racism causes on the minds of Black children, and conservative whites know all too well how to enlarge that damage. No matter how rich or supportive a Black person’s home might be, by the time she is ready to take the SAT or apply to college, she has struggled far more extensively than any white person of the same social and economic background.

In the video it is clear that the hot air really evaporated from Cornyn’s sails. But later on Sen. Cornyn, forever disappointing the Founding Fathers who probably hoped for at least a particle of intelligence from elected leadership, defended his dead-end questioning on social media.

If Brett Kavanaugh had made a similar attempt at “satire” would the response be the same? https://t.co/lR6jrswsGL— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) April 14, 2021

What-about? The problem with Brett Kavanaugh’s pre-professional career was that it is marked with credible accusations of multiple sexual assaults and inappropriate behavior, none of it considered “satire” by anyone, and never has anyone claimed Kavanaugh’s actions to be “satire.” This is not an apple-and-oranges comparison: It is an apples-and-alleged alcoholic sexual assaulter comparison.

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Karina Silvotti, an essential worker in New Jersey, said she’s “worried night and day” about what would happen if she gets sick while on the job as a cashier at a grocery store. Karina lacks legal status, so she’s ineligible for federal relief despite paying into the system through her tax dollars. Those fears only escalated when her husband lost his construction work job during the pandemic.

“I’m not alone,” she writes on NJ.com. “A half-million immigrants in New Jersey—about half of whom are essential workers who have done the work to clean, cook and prepare our food during the pandemic—are excluded from all aid.” Silvotti is now among a number of essential workers in the state who have launched fasts and hunger strikes to demand state leaders finally act on relief.

Fasters and hunger strikers like Silvotti, Pedro Buitrago, and others in the state are hoping to duplicate the recent success of other hunger strikers, workers, and advocates in New York, where lawmakers last week reached an agreement on a historic $2.1 billion in pandemic relief for excluded workers, including undocumented immigrants. Hunger strikers there broke their fast after going 23 days without food. 

“Today, our work today has been recognized,” one of the hunger strikers, Ana Ramirez, told amNY. “Our dignity has been recognized, and our dignity has been lifted by passing this fund.” In her op-ed, Silvotti writes that she hopes her week-long fast can call attention to the issue and remind state leaders that undocumented workers have gone all year without any sort of federal aid.

🍽 MUST WATCH: It’s Day 4️⃣ of #Fast4Relief Hear @MaketheRoadNJ member, Águeda, heartfelt ask to @GovMurphy @NJSenatePres @SpeakerCoughlin to provide relief for those she is fasting for. As a small biz owner in Elizabeth & COVID survivor, she is taking action for a #Recovery4All pic.twitter.com/D1opZhzmAR— Make the Road New Jersey 🦋 (@MaketheRoadNJ) April 10, 2021

“Over Thanksgiving, when we wanted to have a meal together, it was difficult to have enough food to go around,” Silvotti wrote. “Presents were scarce for Christmas. We were scrambling just to pay the rent and pay for my medication, which I need to take every day.” She goes on to say that as part of her job, she “fed so many during the pandemic, but when my family was suffering, no one provided for us.”

Silvotti writes that workers and their advocates have already held dozens of rallies across the state and met with both local and federal legislators. “But still, a year later, we have nothing.”

“This week, I’m joining a fast lead by immigrant essential workers like me to demand relief,” she continues. “We can’t go on like this—now, for more than a year. You could say that I’ve been hungry for a year—and I’m making this sacrifice this week because I want to show our state what we are willing to give to have our humanity, our work and our dignity recognized.”

Our brave fasters are on Day 🖐🏽 of #Fast4Relief Carla, @MaketheRoadNJ member from Passaic, lost her job during the pandemic and is fasting to make sure #EssentialandExcluded workers are heard. “We are not asking for handouts. We are fighting for our rights as immigrants.” pic.twitter.com/OYvTkBeR4f— Make the Road New Jersey 🦋 (@MaketheRoadNJ) April 11, 2021

Dozens of others in the state, like Buitrago, have also been in ongoing hunger strikes. “Hunger doesn’t wait. Rent doesn’t wait,” he recently told NJ.com. “And if people who are here legally are in so much trouble they need help from the government, why wouldn’t we need the help too? We don’t know who to ask anymore and what road to take.” In its recent op-ed, The Star-Ledger Editorial Board urged state leaders like Gov. Phil Murphy to act. The editorial board notes Murphy “is sympathetic.” But sympathy doesn’t pay the bills.

“These immigrants did the essential work when it was needed most,” the editorial board said. “They were on the front lines at stores and restaurants and construction sites and hospitals, and their labor helped save lives while most of us sheltered in place, while facing exposure, illness, and indifference for their sacrifice if they got sick, lost their jobs, or lost their lives. It’s payback time.”

Want to help excluded workers in New Jersey? Click below and use this tool from advocacy group Make the Road New Jersey to send state leaders a message to act on relief now.

We are essential workers who put food on your plates & packages at your doorsteps. We have gone more than 1⃣ year w/o relief because we were left behind by any form of COVID aid due to our immigration status. 💥💥 Join our fight for a #Recovery4All https://t.co/9bULnTSOIj pic.twitter.com/5jYfeYKvHO— Make the Road New Jersey 🦋 (@MaketheRoadNJ) April 13, 2021

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As states continue to push anti-trans legislation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen parents go viral for stepping up and speaking on behalf of their trans children. We’ve also seen a brave, brilliant trans teenager, Stella Keating, go viral for speaking up at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the Equality Act. Now, as Texas weighs several pieces of anti-trans legislation—including one that would essentially criminalize gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth—one 10-year-old trans girl has gone viral for testifying at the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

“I’ve been having to explain myself since I was three or four years old,” Kai Shappley told lawmakers on Monday, in reference to the state’s push for anti-trans bathroom bills several years ago. “Texas legislators have been attacking me since pre-K. I am in the fourth grade now.” Shappley, in addition to being an activist, is also an actress. The busy child stressed that she does “not like spending [her] free time asking adults to make good choices.”

Shappley, who was featured in a documentary about life as a trans girl in Texas back in 2018, opened her testimony by talking about her hobbies, which, like many young children, include ballet, science, geology, FaceTiming her friends, and math. She described herself as a Dolly Parton fan and says she dreams of meeting the country legend.

On the other hand, however, she informed lawmakers that her childhood is not all roses. As one might imagine, the anti-trans bills appearing in her state scare and overwhelm her.

“It makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist,” Shappley stated. The child implored the adults in the room to “educate” themselves. Which is really the bare minimum ask of adults, much less elected officials. 

Shappley also celebrated her mom, who she described as “great” and as a “great nurse.” This is especially relevant because one of the bills Texas is considering, Texas Senate Bill 1646, would label the parents of trans children who consent to (or administer, or supply) gender-affirming medical care, like hormonal treatments, as child abusers. The only exception is if the child is intersex. So the two bills the state is considering attack trans health on all fronts: criminalizing doctors providing it and parents agreeing to it.

The fourth grader’s mother, Kimberly Shappley, also wrote a moving op-ed over at the Houston Chronicle, urging politicians not to essentially force her to leave the state over this exclusionary, discriminatory legislation. 

Shappley closed her statement with a little reminder that kids grow up to be adults, and history doesn’t erase itself. “I want to say thank you to those of you who are sticking up for kids like me,” she told legislators. “By the time I’m in college, you will be celebrated in the history books.”

Shappley, like Keating, and like so many others who don’t get media attention, are amazing. They’re inspiring, brave, and wise beyond their years. But here’s the thing: They shouldn’t have to be. Trans kids and teens deserve to enjoy their adolescence as much as anyone else, and they shouldn’t have to testify before a room full of adults to appeal for their humanity. 

You can check out Shappley’s testimony below.

YouTube Video

You can check out the documentary below.

YouTube Video

We must act now to urge our senators to vote “yes” to the Equality Act.

Sign and send the petition: The Senate must pass the Equality Act and stop the discrimination against LGBTQ people.

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On April 6, progressives got a big boost when Jill Underly easily defeated Deb Kerr in the battle for Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction by a double-digit margin. The office, which oversees schools throughout the state, is nominally nonpartisan, but the state Democratic Party endorsed Underly while a host of conservative luminaries (including former Gov. Scott Walker) sided with Kerr.

It might be tempting to dismiss any tea leaves from this contest: It was a spring election in an off-year, turnout was relatively low, and both candidates were, technically, Democrats. But turnout was in fact up 30% compared to the last election for schools chief in 2017, and it would serve us well to look a little deeper into the nature of Underly’s 58-42 landslide win in a state that was one of the closest in the 2020 presidential election. So what happened?

1. Kerr’s strategy on education mimicked the gop’S 2021 RHETORIC ON SCHOOLS. it failed—badly

Republicans may try to dismiss the results as irrelevant, given that both candidates were nominally Democrats. Underly’s bonafides were never in question, but Kerr, despite her vocal support from Republicans, claimed to be a “pragmatic Democrat” who supported Joe Biden. Yet for the duration of the race, Kerr mimicked large parts of the GOP’s rhetoric on education. She was an early advocate, for instance, of the “return to school” mantra that has become a conservative staple in the time of COVID. She also took a very GOP-friendly approach to school vouchers.

Kerr made sure to target teachers’ unions, in this case specifically tying them to the “failure” of urban schools to reopen amid the pandemic, claiming that “the five largest school districts have not reopened because they have been strong-armed by the teachers’ unions. Arguments like these were amplified by conservative commentators, like Republican lobbyist Bill McCoshen (himself a possible candidate for governor), who called Underly “the teachers’ union candidate” and declared, “Deb Kerr is for the kids. Jill Underly is for the teachers.”

Republicans have long been convinced that Democrats would suffer for their caution in reopening schools, allowing them to ride voter antipathy toward teachers’ unions to political reward. That theory got a real-life test on April 6, and the result wasn’t even close: a 16-point margin for the “union candidate” in a traditional swing state that Biden carried by less than 1 point last year. And, given all we saw during the campaign, no one can say that the two candidates didn’t stake out contrasting positions on the issue that conservatives were convinced would be a winner for them, both now and in 2022.

2. The republican swoon in the suburbs continues unabated

The continued GOP decline in suburbia proved critical in Wisconsin in 2020, turning what had been a narrow win for Donald Trump four years earlier to a narrow victory for Biden last November. Particularly informative are the three suburban counties that surround Milwaukee: the so-called “WOW” counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington).

In 2020, Trump won these three counties by roughly 97,000 votes while losing statewide by just over 20,600 votes. In 2016? Trump, in an equally narrow statewide win, carried this trio of counties by a greater raw vote margin—105,000 votes—despite the fact that this region accounted for nearly 48,000 fewer total votes overall.

And last week, it was even worse: Kerr’s 59-41 margin in the WOW counties was narrower than Trump’s 61-38 win last fall. By way of perspective, when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers (who was schools superintendent for many years before defeating Walker in 2018) thumped Republican Assemblyman Don Pridemore in 2013 by 22 points, Pridemore still won the WOW counties 62-38.

We’ve seen a similar phenomenon in Milwaukee County, too, which of course is home to the eponymous city but also includes a large swath of traditionally red suburbs, too. In that 2013 race, for instance, Evers won Milwaukee County 62-37. This year, Underly cranked that margin up to 69-31.

A very probable factor driving this suburban shift, as many analysts have argued over the years, is education. It turns out that Wisconsin’s three best-educated counties, when looking at the percentage of residents 25 and up who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, include two of the WOW counties, Ozaukee and Waukesha. (The leader is Dane, home of the liberal bastion—and college town—of Madison.) They’ve all moved sharply at the presidential level over the last decade:

Shift in Presidential Preference, 2012-2020

County
% Bachelor’s
2012 performance
2020 performance
shift

dane
51.4%
D+43.5
D+52.6
D+9.1

ozaukee
49.0%
R+30.3
R+12.1
D+18.2

waukesha
44.5%
R+34.5
R+20.8
D+13.7

STATEWIDE
30.1%
D+6.9
D+0.7
R+6.2

Even as the state became more competitive for the GOP in the past two elections, these three highly educated counties moved to the Democrats, with the two traditionally red counties outside of Milwaukee shifting dramatically.

This movement offset the corresponding shift toward the GOP in the more rural parts of the state. For a Republican to win Wisconsin nowadays, they need conservative rural turnout, but they also need to crush the Democrats in what had been one of their last suburban redoubts. Yes, that suburban Milwaukee voter base is still red, but not nearly as uniformly as was the case even a decade ago, something that April 6 underscored.

3. Turnout STATEWIDE DID NOT FAVOR THE democratic PARTY

But did Republicans have a reason to turn out? After all, both candidates were self-identified Democrats! Maybe the red team just sat this one out?

The evidence is … not so much.

If conservative voters truly had no stake in the contest, we would have seen that reflected in the turnout variance between red and blue strongholds. But comparing this year’s election to last year’s presidential contest badly undermines any such argument.

Kerr, it turns out, won 23 counties, far fewer than Trump’s tally of 58. It’s fair to say that these nearly two dozen counties form the reddest core of the state, which should give us a read on how Republican-leaning voters felt about the importance of this race. In this cohort, turnout was 29.1% of what it was in 2020.

That may sound like a low figure, but that’s actually higher than turnout statewide, which was 27.7% of the presidential turnout. So in the counties Kerr won, voters participated in greater proportion than average. What’s more, turnout actually lagged a bit in the bluest part of the state: In the 22 counties where Underly did better than her statewide margin of victory, participation was 27.5% of the 2020 presidential turnout.

A historic indicator of Democratic success in Wisconsin is the percentage of the overall vote generated by the twin metropolitan blue behemoths of the state: Dane and Milwaukee Counties. In 2020, the two counties were responsible for 24.4% of the state’s votes. In this election, that share went up, but only just a bit, to 25.0%. This small increase cannot explain the difference between a 1-point squeaker and a double-digit wipeout.

Indeed, the best county for voter participation was actually smallish Taylor County in northern Wisconsin, which saw turnout at a robust 44.7% of 2020’s turnout. Trump not only annihilated Biden 72-25 there, it was Kerr’s third-best county in the state, giving her a 57-43 win.

Meanwhile, two of the counties with the weakest turnout were Milwaukee County and tiny Menominee County, a predominantly Native American county that’s deep blue (82-17 Biden), and where turnout was only 10% of the presidential turnout, by far the lowest in the state.

So does this mean that Republicans shouldn’t be worried about turnout? Quite the contrary. Something has to account for the fact that Underly, running as a vocal progressive, more than held her own in counties where Biden did comparatively poorly. The most glaring example came in Underly’s home county of Lafayette, which Trump won 56-43 but Underly carried 59-41. But there were other places, like Marinette County, which is geographically distinct from Underly’s home base, that was deep red in 2020 (67-32 Trump!) yet narrowly went for Underly (51-49).

Election observers have long wondered whether the bond that developed between Donald Trump and a particular subset of otherwise hard-to-motivate voters would not be transferable to the Republican Party without Trump there to drive the train. Kerr’s failure to effectively use the GOP’s stock lines on COVID and education to win over rural voters who had strongly supported Trump could just be a simple failure of a candidate with real liabilities (her general election campaign, after all, began with a total debacle).

But it could also mean, as we saw in relatively weak performances in some Trumpian strongholds from 2017-2019, that Trump is in fact a unique driver of voter sentiment whose departure from office might simply mean these disaffected voters will choose to recess into the woodwork. Only time will tell if that’s the case, but if it is the case, it’s quite possible Republicans struck a temporary bargain that cost them countless college-educated suburban voters for very little of value in return.

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It is Wednesday, and today’s White House briefing was dominated by questions concerning national security. White House press secretary Jen Psaki fielded queries about President Biden’s announcement that the United States will be pulling out of Afghanistan, as well as questions concerning Iran and whether or not recent claims of a cyberattack at Iranian nuclear facilities will sidetrack possible renegotiations. A couple of reporters asked Psaki to talk about the possibility of a Putin/Biden summit, and in general most of the questions referred to these foreign policy considerations.

The main point that Psaki made to reporters was that President Biden’s decision is based on the view that Afghanistan’s security issues cannot be fixed through military occupation. There is a need for better and more productive long-term solutions to our national security issues involving international terrorism. In tandem with this is the news, reported out of Iran, that their nuclear facilities were the victims of a cyberattack. Psaki reiterated the White House’s position that a.) the United States was not involved in the attack; b.) the White House will not openly speculate as to who is responsible for such an attack; and c.) the White House remains committed to reopening negotiations with Iran, which were destroyed under the Trump administration.

Then, because the country’s right-wing propaganda outlets have virtually nothing even approximating policy to ask about, a question came in about the Biden administration making taxpayers pay for everybody’s abortions. I bet you didn’t know about this policy change! I bet you didn’t know because it isn’t a thing. That isn’t happening. In response, press secretary Psaki was forced to literally read the law to this reporter.

On behalf of Catholic news channel EWTN, White House correspondent Owen Jensen asked about the Biden administration’s plans to reverse the Trump administration’s radical policy change that cut millions of women off from Title X family services. Specifically, the Catholic news outlet’s correspondent was asking about Biden’s proposal to lift the “gag rule” that barred reproductive health providers who received federal funding by way of Title X from referring patients to doctors or clinics that provide abortions. Of course, this isn’t federal funding that goes into paying for or providing anyone with abortions. That money does disproportionately help lower-income communities and frequently marginalized women and families get access to better healthcare options.

Jensen, however, asked this: “Why does the Biden administration insist that pro-life Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience?” Wild, right? Forget about the fact that even if this were the case—WHICH IT IS NOT—these asshats can get in line behind the tens of millions of Americans who don’t want to pay for an overblown military, an overblown law enforcement apparatus, and billions in corporate welfare. But I’m not the press secretary, in no small part because I would be bleeped so much it would be hard for news outlets to get a useable quote. Luckily, Jen Psaki is good at handling dunderheads in a more civil fashion.

“Well, first, that’s not an accurate depiction of what happens, and I know we want to be accurate around here, in programs where abortion is a method of family planning,” Psaki responded. She then went on to read the law’s language: “None of funds appropriated under this title should be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. That is written into the public health service act and it specifically states that.”

Jensen attempts to argue that these funds are an “indirect subsidizing” of abortion services, even throwing in a truly bizarre “money is fungible, it can’t be traced, we know that” claim. It is probably the idiotic condescension Owens delivers this last part with that would end with me turning furniture over and getting kicked out of the administration. But Psaki, bless her heart, replies “That is not how it works, that is the law. So I’m stating what the law is and how it is implemented legally by these organizations.”

Psaki goes on to explain that the goal here is to create more equitable health services for Americans. The Trump-era gag rule hurt families of color more than it did anything to lower abortion rates in our country. Jensen’s only response was to try and ask the question a second time. But he led it off with this remark: “You talk about equity, if I may interrupt.” He didn’t interrupt anyone. At all. It’s almost like he’s bearing false witness for the print version of what he might write later. Like he’s attempting to create a conflict where there is no conflict. I wish these reporters were more faith-based, then they would surely act less morally reprehensible. 

Owens goes on to try the old twisted logic that by offering more money for family planning healthcare services to people of color, this will somehow lead to more abortions in communities of color. Shhhh. Don’t say anything! Don’t think about it! The mushed-together words are the logic-free signifier of the forced-birther movement. “How is it fighting systemic racism when abortion, we all know, disproportionately affects minority children?”

So, his argument is that even though the law doesn’t allow for taxpayer money to go to abortion services in family planning, it somehow does. And in so doing, this thing that isn’t happening will lead to communities of color having more abortions because these communities want government subsidized abortions so they can have more abortions. (In an alternate world, press secretary Einenkel was chastised for holding up both middle fingers at a reporter today … )

Again, Psaki explained that there are laws and there are non-laws, and this is a law. The executive branch of our government is in charge of enforcing the laws … or executing those laws, as the language states. Owens tried once more to go into the BS fray, but Psaki was finished allowing him time to pretend he is a reporter and cut him off, saying, “I think I’ve answered your question.”

Jen Psaki masterfully handles a factually inaccurate, loaded question about abortion pic.twitter.com/4DG9OcrqE2— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 14, 2021

You can watch the whole briefing below, the interaction with Mr. Jensen takes place around the 42:48 mark.

YouTube Video

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As problematic as the defense’s expert witness is in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin—and he is problematic—the doctor still couldn’t manage to offer Chauvin a verified and assured escape route. The closest Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist, came was an obscure game of what-ifs that had Floyd dying from causes as varied as heart disease, drug use, and car fumes.

None of the theories, however, seemed to outrank Fowler’s answer to an important element of the case. “Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?” Jerry Blackwell, an attorney for the prosecution, asked. The doctor responded: “As a physician, I would agree.” The central element of Chauvin’s trial, however, is cause.

WATCH: Attorney Jerry Blackwell asks defense’s witness Dr. David Fowler: “Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?” Fowler: “As a physician I would agree.” pic.twitter.com/wTKuEPoBqQ— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 14, 2021

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd for more than nine minutes while he called for his mother and repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. He is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, started the trial day Wednesday by asking the court for a judgment of acquittal, a common strategy for defense attorneys, New York Times reporter John Eligon wrote in the newspaper’s live coverage. Nelson attempted to argue that medical examiner Andrew Baker only ruled Floyd’s death a homicide “for medical purposes.”

“As expected, Judge Peter A. Cahill denies it,” Eligon wrote.

Another of Cahill’s rulings hampered the defense’s attempt to paint Floyd as his own killer because of his drug addiction. It came in the form of an attempted link to accused drug dealer Morries Lester Hall, a friend of Floyd’s who was with him before his death. Hall took the stand on Wednesday to formally invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, which his attorney had been warning of for several days. Adrienne Cousins, Hall’s attorney, said in court on Wednesday that her client’s car has been searched twice and drugs have been found inside of it both times. “If he puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to possession charges,” the attorney said. Cahill found her reasoning valid, and the trial went on without Hall’s testimony.

Questioning centered on Fowler, a former chief medical examiner in Maryland. The doctor retired from his position in 2019 and is currently named in a lawsuit from the family of Anton Black, another Black man killed by police. “As Maryland medical examiner, Fowler claimed that Anton died of natural causes, saying that his bipolar disorder was a contributing factor, rather than the weight pressed on Anton while he was held facedown by three white officers and a white civilian,” the ACLU of Maryland said in a news release on Wednesday.

Sonia Kumar, a senior staff attorney for the organization, said in a statement that “under Dr. Fowler’s leadership” the Maryland medical examiner’s office has been “complicit in creating false narratives about what kills Black people in police encounters, including Tyrone West, Tawon Boyd, Anton Black, and too many others.” She added:

“The medical examiner’s office ruled that Anton Black’s death was not a homicide even though video showed police chase him, tase him, and pin him face down to the ground after he was handcuffed and at which point he stopped breathing. The medical examiner blamed Anton for his own death — peppering its report with false claims about laced drugs, a heart condition, and even Anton’s bipolar disorder — instead of the police who killed him. The family was forced to pay for outside experts help to understand what really killed Anton.”

And so began Fowler’s testimony in the Chauvin case.

“In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia … during his restraint and subdual by police,” Forensic pathologist David Fowler testifieshttps://t.co/ChxZ5S6YOn pic.twitter.com/EN6YwfWek5— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 14, 2021

Fowler testified in court that he believed Floyd underwent a cardiac arrhythmia and that his history of drug use, heart disease, and carbon monoxide exposure from the squad car during his detainment contributed to the arrhythmia. “All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” Fowler said.

Forensic pathologist David Fowler testifies that George Floyd had “so many conflicting potential mechanisms of death” that he considers the manner of death to be undetermined. pic.twitter.com/61IVCMqH1n— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 14, 2021

Let the doctor tell it, because Floyd’s neck wasn’t bruised. it also wasn’t really impacted. “It speaks to the amount of force applied to Mr. Floyd was less than enough to bruise him,” Fowler said.

Forensic pathologist David Fowler testifies he found no evidence of injury or bruising to George Floyd’s neck or back. “It speaks to the amount of force applied to Mr. Floyd was less than enough to bruise him.” pic.twitter.com/wtlx6dDBO7— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 14, 2021

But in this case heightened with multiple clips of body-camera footage, witness video, and surveillance clips, what Fowler couldn’t do was completely bend the truth to his will. Blackwell was able to tear down his reasoning—or more accurately, get the doctor to tear down his own reasoning—point by point. Fowler admitted that he’s seen no air monitoring data that would inform him on how much, if any, carbon monoxide would’ve been in Floyd’s breathing zone. Fowler agreed with the prosecution that even if Chauvin and other officers weren’t on Floyd’s neck, their weight on a person’s abdomen or torso could also cause compressional or positional asphyxia, a lack of oxygen flow to the brain.

“If it exceeds the limits of 225 pounds as found by multiple studies, then yes your argument is correct,” Fowler said.

WATCH: Attorney Jerry Blackwell asks defense’s witness Dr. David Fowler if the weight of one or more officers is put on a person’s torso or abdomen, it could cause compressional or positional asphyxia. pic.twitter.com/YPJMCLtdmi— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 14, 2021

He had earlier said: “Speaking and making noise is very good evidence that the airway was not closed.”

That account is contrary to that of prosecution witnesses Martin Tobin, a Chicago pulmonologist and critical care physician, and Bill Smock, an emergency medical physician. “Mr. Floyd died from positional asphyxia, which is a fancy way of saying he died because he had no oxygen left in his body,” Smock said in earlier testimony. Tobin explained that the level of oxygen in Floyd’s body dropped to zero, and at that point “there’s not an ounce of oxygen left in his body.”

View more social media postings and video clips related to the trial:

Chauvin defense witness David Fowler, former Maryland chief medical examiner, contradicts prosecution’s witness, saying because George Floyd was speaking and making noise, it is “very good evidence that the airway was not closed.” pic.twitter.com/QcBa2otSY6— The Recount (@therecount) April 14, 2021

Gotcha…..gotcha good, lying #DavidFowler 😆😆😆🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I’m dead!!! I love #jerryblackwell pic.twitter.com/BcJJEqyaU0— C_ABRAFI_KOTO (@abrafi_c) April 14, 2021

Upon cross-examination, Chauvin defense witness Dr. David Fowler, former Maryland chief medical examiner, admits he has no scientific data for stating carbon monoxide contributed to George Floyd’s death. pic.twitter.com/DKLpZ2M7K7— The Recount (@therecount) April 14, 2021

ACLU of Maryland reacts to Md former chief medical examiner David Fowler testifying for defense in Chauvin trial, noting his rulings in Tyrone West, Anton Black and other cases (his office also ruled Freddie Gray’s death a homicide by omission): pic.twitter.com/u4BF4wGUUp— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) April 14, 2021

RELATED: Defense expert claims George Floyd should have been ‘resting comfortably’ with knee on his neck

RELATED: ‘Not an ounce of oxygen left’: Doctor details vile state Floyd left in as pro-cop PAC aims to profit

RELATED: Key testimony from Chauvin trial: ‘the activities of law enforcement resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death’

RELATED: ‘Chauvin knew what he was doing’: Police chief doubles down on his stance of what happened to Floyd

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It seems like Republican South Dakota governor and noted COVID-19 superspreader Kristi Noem wants unaccompanied children and other asylum-seekers to know that they’re not welcome in her state. I mean, she really wants them to know they’re really not welcome. 

“South Dakota won’t be taking any illegal immigrants that the Biden Administration wants to relocate,” she wrote in a tweet that could have easily been mistaken for something from Gab or Parler but was actually her official government account. By the way, asylum is legal immigration. But anyway, back to Noem’s tweet. “My message to illegal immigrants… call me when you’re an American.”

The tweet comes after a number of Republicans have taken the very pro-life and pro-family stance of informing the Biden administration that asylum-seeking kids seeking safety in the U.S. can also stay the hell out of their states, please and thank you.

“Gov. Ricketts rejects request to house migrant children in Nebraska,” Omaha World-Herald reported this week. “This is not our problem; this is the president’s problem,” Iowa’s Kim Reynolds said. But it’s not enough to tell off the president. Nope. Noem wants asylum-seekers to also be included in the berating:

South Dakota won’t be taking any illegal immigrants that the Biden Administration wants to relocate. My message to illegal immigrants… call me when you’re an American.— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) April 14, 2021

So Noem shows how Twitter can truly be a flaming dumpster fire of assholery. But the platform can also be used to push back on these garbage views, as a number of folks showed. While South Dakota is home to a smaller number of immigrants (about 35,000 in 2018, the American Immigration Council estimates) they “make up a critical share of the state’s labor force,” the organization said, and El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar noted:

Next announce that you won’t eat food that immigrants gather for you in back-breaking agricultural work or that they cook in the restaurants you dine in or the meat you eat from meat packing plants where they work. Stop the hypocrisy and stop dehumanizing immigrants. https://t.co/StSU4wziFn— Veronica Escobar (@vgescobar) April 14, 2021

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud tweeted that he got a direct message from a physician in the state. “I’m absolutely horrified,” this doctor wrote to him. “She is as un-Jesus like as possible. Especially after the Smithfield debacle and our history of Native American issues this is as low as it gets.” Others on Twitter made similar observations.

No one is illegal on stolen land. And you are definitely – DEFINITELY – on some stolen af land. https://t.co/x7PwcthwXz— Austin Kocher, PhD (@ackocher) April 14, 2021

“The irony of this cruel message from the South Dakota Governor is that South Dakota only exists b/c thousands of white undocumented immigrants from Europe used the Homestead Act from 1860-1920 to steal land from Native Americans w/o compensation or reparations,” human rights attorney Qasim Rashid tweeted.

Topping this all off is the July 2020 tweet that Noem had pinned to her account as of Wednesday afternoon. It appears to be a tweet promoting the state. “There’s no place in America like South Dakota. We’d love to have you join us,” it read. “Come grow your company; live your life; achieve your dreams.We can make it happen for you right now, because South Dakota Means Business.” Unless you’re an asylum-seeker. Then, the message is: Stay Out.

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The surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America arriving at the US-Mexico border is heartbreaking. The US should stand up and accept refugees fleeing oppression like it says it’s supposed to.

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