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West Virginia stubborn, or playing hard to get

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin pisses off his party yet again … to what end?

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

Also in this report:

  • Atlanta DA Fani Willis may beat Justice Department to the courthouse door
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis shows Donald Trump the money

Blue in name only? Senator No strikes again

Another co-dependent, dysfunctional chapter has been written in the fraught relationship between West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and the Democratic Party to which he claims to belong.

This time around, Manchin KO’ed the Biden Administration’s plan to pour billions into climate change mitigation, after weeks of semi-quiet negotiations with Chuck Schumer to reach a deal. The reason? Manchin says he doesn’t want to aggravate the worst inflation in 40 years with more federal spending.

His fellow Democrats erupted, with a lot of chatter about obstructionism in the face of existential threats. New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich questioned why Manchin is still being allowed to helm the Senate Energy Committee. (Answer: Because pushing him out is the best way to turn him into a Republican.) Bernie Sanders thundered that Manchin was “intentionally sabotaging” President Biden’s agenda, even though Manchin’s behavior seems more capricious than intentional.

Manchin has yet again teased fellow Democrats with flirtatious negotiations, before yanking the rose out of their hands. To what end, it’s hard to see, given that he’d be better off politically in his home state by not negotiating in the first place. Then again, it has made him the center of attention, which should never be underestimated as a motivating factor in the halls of Congress.

Those disposed to ascribe the worst of motives to Manchin will no doubt be encouraged by a Politico report detailing how he has been the top recipient of campaign cash from the energy industry – and then providing five paragraphs of names of a veritable who’s who of energy executives, energy lobbyists and other business bigwigs who have opened up their checkbooks to him in the last quarter as he hemmed and hawed on climate spending.

♦Atlanta’s chief prosecutor, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, is rolling right along in her investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in the Peach State, firing off grand jury subpoenas to state officials and at least two members of Congress, South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Georgia U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

Graham and Hice are fighting the subpoenas; Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger are cooperating. Perhaps more ominous for Trumpworld was a scoop from Yahoo News that Willis has sent target letters to three top state Republicans – David Shafer, chair of the Georgia Republican Party and State Senators State Senators Burt Jones and Brandon Beach – indicating that they could be indicted; she’s also considering subpoenaing Trump himself.

With the Justice Department in Washington moving at a glacial pace in its investigation of the January 6 coup attempt, Willis could very well beat them to the courthouse door, throwing an enormous monkey wrench into Republican campaigns in statewide races, particularly that of Jones, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor. But Kemp, too, is likely to face pressure from the MAGA faithful to use his pardon power to thwart Willis if she takes the plunge.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has to date been non-committal (Coy? Playing Hamlet?) about whether he plans to run for president in 2024 if Trump also runs. But a new bit of fundraising news from the Washington Post indicates some support for that prospect among donors.

Trump’s fundraising operation raised $36 million in the first half of 2022, the first time he has raised less than $50 million in a six-month period since leaving the White House. DeSantis, on the other hand, raised $45 million from January to June, besting Trump by $9 million.

Granted, DeSantis is in the middle of an active re-election campaign, and Trump is not. But these figures are an indication that DeSantis will be a formidable obstacle to Trump 2.0 if he decides to run.

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Preemptive Strike: North Carolina U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn sues to block ballot challenge

Cawthorn says attempt to toss him off 2022 ballot for role in January 6th is unconstitutional

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

North CarolinaASHEVILLE (CFP) — Tucked inside the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in lesser known Section 3, is a provision that says “no person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress” if, having taken an oath to support the Constitution “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”


U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina

A North Carolina federal judge is now being called upon to decide whether that prohibition — meant to keep unreconstructed Confederates out of Congress after the Civil War — is applicable to supporters of Donald Trump involved in events surrounding the January 6, 2020 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a fiercely pro-Trump partisan who spoke at a rally on the Ellipse before the riot, has gone to federal court to block the North Carolina State Elections Board from hearing a complaint filed by voters in his district, asking that he be barred from the 2022 ballot over his actions that day.

If successful, his preemptive strike would prevent the board’s Democratic majority from possibly agreeing that his actions amounted to “insurrection” and barring him from seeking re-election.

His case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard Myers in Wilmington, whom Trump appointed to the federal bench in 2019.

The group that organized the effort to disqualify Cawthorn, Free Speech for People, is planning similar challenges against other conservative pro-Trump lawmakers who have raised false claims of voter fraud and riled up the crowd on January 6th.

Section 3 does not outline a mechanism to disqualify lawmakers for “insurrection,” or even define the term. So the ad-hoc effort to use it as a cudgel against lawmakers who have promoted Trump’s unproven allegations of voter fraud plows untested legal ground that Cawthorn’s suit might help define.

Another aspect of the legal fight could be the conditions attached to North Carolina’s readmission to the Union in 1868, which required the state to enforce the 14th Amendment.

The North Carolina elections board has not acted on the voters’ challenge. However, state law requires that the board automatically hold a hearing if challengers establish a “reasonable suspicion” that there is a valid reason for disqualification, a provision that Cawthorn says violates his First Amendment right to run for office.

Cawthorn also contends that the challenge statute would require him to prove he didn’t engage in insurrection or rebellion, rather than the challengers proving that he did, which violates his rights under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

And finally, he argues that under the Constitution, only Congress has the authority to decide who is or is not eligible to be a member, not a state board.

He wants the judge to prevent the state elections board from even hearing the challenge, contending the entire effort is a constitutional affront.

In a statement, Cawthorn said the challenge statute is “being used as a weapon by liberal Democrats to attempt to defeat our democracy by having state bureaucrats, rather than the people, choose who will represent North Carolina in Congress.”

But Ron Fein, Free Speech for People’s legal director, said in a statement that “Cawthorn’s attempt to bypass the state’s well-developed procedures for resolving candidacy challenges is based on misunderstandings of federal and state law,” particularly the state’s agreement to enforce the 14th Amendment.

“It is unfortunate that Madison Cawthorn has decided to run to federal court instead of complying with the process before the State Board of Elections,” Fein said. “We intend to move to intervene in this federal court case to oppose Cawthorn’s attempted end-run around the laws that the people of North Carolina enacted for addressing candidacy challenges.”

Under state law, the five-member election board has three members from the same party as the governor – currently Democrat Roy Cooper – and two members of the opposing party.

After Cooper was elected in 2016, Republicans who control the legislature passed legislation to reconfigure the board to keep it out of Democratic hands, but Cooper successfully went to court to overturn that effort.

Cawthorn, 26, from Hendersonville, is the youngest member of Congress. He was elected in 2020 and took his oath of office, vowing to uphold the Constitution, just days before the January 6th riot.

He has announced that he plans for re-election in the state’s newly configured 13th District, rather than the 11th District in Western North Carolina that he currently represents. However, the state’s new map is being challenged in both state and federal courts and could be redrawn.

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