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Proving Racist Intent: Democrats Face High New Bar in Opposing Voting Laws

Democrats and voting rights groups say they can no longer count on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to serve as a backstop for preventing racially discriminatory voting restrictions.

The 6-to-3 decision by the Supreme Court on Thursday that upheld voting restrictions in Arizona has effectively left voting rights advocates with a higher bar for bringing federal cases under the Voting Rights Act: proving discriminatory intent.

That burden is prompting civil rights and voting groups to recalibrate their approach to challenging in court the raft of new restrictions that Republican-controlled legislatures have passed this year in the aftermath of Donald J. Trump’s election loss in November. No longer, they say, can they count on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to serve as a backstop for preventing racially discriminatory voting restrictions.

“We have to remember that the Supreme Court is not going to save us — it’s not going to protect our democracy in these moments when it is most necessary that it does so,” Sam Spital, the director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Friday.

The high court gutted the central protection of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision, and on Thursday the court further limited the act’s reach in combating discriminatory laws, establishing strict new guidelines for proving the laws’ effects on voters of color and thus requiring litigants to clear the much higher bar of proving purposeful intent to discriminate.

Mr. Spital said his group would have to carefully assess its next moves and “think very carefully” before bringing new cases that, if defeated, could set damaging new precedents. The Arizona case, filed in 2016 by the Democratic National Committee, was considered a weak vehicle for challenging new voting laws; even the Biden administration acknowledged that the Arizona law was not discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. Choosing the wrong cases, in the wrong jurisdictions, could lead to further setbacks, Mr. Spital and other voting rights advocates said.

At the same time, Mr. Spital said, it is imperative that voting restrictions enacted by Republicans not go unchallenged.

“It will force us to work even harder in the cases that we do bring,” he said. “Once the rules of the game are set, even if they are tilted against us, we have the resources — we have extraordinary lawyers, extraordinary clients, and we have the facts on our side.”

Thursday’s ruling also laid bare an uncomfortable new reality for Democrats and voting activists: that under existing law, they can expect little help from the federal courts on election laws that are passed on a partisan basis by the party that controls a state government. Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Florida and Iowa have moved aggressively to push through voting laws, brushing aside protests from Democrats, voting rights groups and even major corporations.

Arizona Republicans were candid about the partisan nature of their efforts when the Supreme Court heard the case in March. A lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party told the justices that the restrictions were needed because without them, Republicans in the state would be “at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.”

“It’s much harder to prove these things — it takes a lot more evidence,” said Travis Crum, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who specializes in voting rights and redistricting cases. “Courts are often reluctant to label legislators racist. That’s why the effects standard was added in 1982.”

The high court’s decision also raises the stakes for 2022 contests for governor in the key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democratic governors are poised to block measures proposed by Republican-controlled legislatures. If a Republican won the governor’s seat in any of those states, the legislature would have a clear path to pushing through new voting laws.

Republicans on Friday lauded the Supreme Court ruling, calling it a validation of the need to combat voter fraud — though no evidence of widespread fraud emerged in President Biden’s victory.

Justin Riemer, the chief counsel at the Republican National Committee, argued that the new “guideposts” set by Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, were welcome and would force a recognition of the broader options for voting available in a state.

“It reaffirms, for example, that states have an incredibly important interest in protecting against voter fraud and promoting voter confidence,” Mr. Riemer said. “When the court looked at Arizona’s laws, it noted how generous the voting provisions were.”

Mr. Riemer noted that Democrats would also have a harder time in meeting new standards for showing that laws impose unreasonable burdens on voters.

“I don’t want to say completely shuts them out of Section 2, but it’s going to make it very difficult for them to strike down laws that are really minimally, if at all, burdensome,” Mr. Riemer said, referring to the section of the Voting Rights Act that addresses racially discriminatory practices.

Major Supreme Court decisions affirming a new restriction on voting have historically been followed by waves of new state-level legislation. In 2011, 34 states introduced some form of new voter identification legislation after the court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law in 2008.

The first immediate test of a newly emboldened legislature will come next week in Texas, where lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene for a special session, in a second attempt by Republicans to pass an election overhaul bill. The first attempt failed after Democrats in the State Legislature staged a contentious late-night walkout, temporarily halting proposals that were among the most restrictive in the country.

Those proposals included bans on new methods of voting, a reduction in Sunday voting hours and provisions that would make it easier to overturn elections and would greatly empower partisan poll watchers.

The uncertain legal fights will play out in a federal judiciary remade during Mr. Trump’s administration, and Democrats in Congress have failed to enact federal voter protections.

The legal defense fund that Mr. Spital represents sued Georgia in May over its new voting laws, arguing that the laws would have a discriminatory effect. Other lawsuits, including one the Department of Justice filed last week, argue that Georgia acted with intent to discriminate against voters of color.

But some Democrats, while lamenting the decision by the Supreme Court, noted that they still had plenty of constitutional tools to challenge repressive voting laws.

“Obviously, it is now going to be more difficult to litigate,” said Aneesa McMillan, a deputy executive director at the super PAC Priorities USA, who oversees the organization’s voting rights efforts. “But most of our cases that we challenge, we challenge based on the First, the 14th and the 15th amendments of the Constitution.”

Among the guideposts Justice Alito articulated is an assessment of “the standard practice” of voting in 1982, when Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was amended.

“It is relevant that in 1982 States typically required nearly all voters to cast their ballots in person on election day and allowed only narrow and tightly defined categories of voters to cast absentee ballots,” Justice Alito wrote.

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling established a series of guideposts for determining whether merely the effect of a voting law is discriminatory, rather than the intent.
Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The court did not address the purpose clause of Section 2. But those cases often rely on racist statements by lawmakers or irregularities in the legislative process — trickier elements of a legal case to prove than the effects.

“You’re not going to get that smoking gun kind of evidence,” said Sophia Lakin, the deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s Voting Rights Project. “It’s pulling together a lot of circumstantial pieces to show the purpose is to take away the rights of voters of color.”

Mikala Compton/Reuters

In Texas, some Democrats in the Legislature had been hoping that they could work toward a more moderate version of the bill in the special session that starts next week; it remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court decision will induce Republicans to favor an even more restrictive bill.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and State Representative Briscoe Cain, both Republicans, did not respond to requests for comment. Speaker Dan Phelan and State Senator Bryan Hughes, both Republicans, declined to comment.

But whether the Supreme Court decision will open the floodgates for more restrictive voting legislation in other states remains an open question; more than 30 state legislatures have adjourned for the year, and others have already passed their voting laws.

“It’s hard to imagine what a spike in voting restrictions would look like now, because we are already seeing such a dramatic surge, more than at any time since Reconstruction,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute. “But passing new waves of legislation has certainly been the response in recent years.”

Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin is one of the Democratic governors who are holding off voting measures passed by Republican-led legislatures. On Wednesday, he vetoed the first of several pieces of Republican legislation on the electoral process.

In an interview, he said Republicans’ monthslong effort to relitigate the 2020 election had had the effect of placing voting rights on the level of health care and education among the top priorities of Wisconsin voters.

“It’s rising up as far as people’s recognizing that it’s an important issue,” Mr. Evers said. “They brought it on themselves, frankly, the Republicans have. I don’t think the people of Wisconsin thought the election was stolen. They understand that it was a fair election. And so the Republicans’ inability to accept Donald Trump’s loss is making it more of a bread-and-butter issue here.”

Author: Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti
Read more here >>> NYT > Top Stories

‘Not My Intent’: How Biden’s Impromptu Comments Upended a Political Win

WASHINGTON — It was all going according to President Biden’s tightrope plan to pass the most ambitious economic agenda in generations. Right until the moment that Mr. Biden, a politician with a history of rogue comments, veered off script.

After weeks of closed-door negotiations, Mr. Biden strode to the cameras on the White House driveway on Thursday, flanked by an equal number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, to proudly announce an overall infrastructure agreement totaling $ 1.2 trillion over eight years that could cement his legacy as a bipartisan deal maker.

Mr. Biden and his top aides had successfully struck a limited agreement with key centrist senators to rebuild roads and bridges while carefully signaling to liberals that he still intended to embrace a measure — likely to gain only Democratic support — to spend trillions more on climate, education, child care and other economic priorities. It was an “I told you so” moment for a president who is supremely confident in his ability to navigate legislative negotiations.

But in a stray comment during a news conference an hour later, the president blurted out that he would not approve the compromise bill without the partisan one.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” he said, answering a question about the timing of his legislative agenda. “I’m not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest.”

It may not seem like much, but it was enough to upend Mr. Biden’s proud bipartisan moment. On the one hand, he was saying out loud what liberals in his party wanted to hear. But to the centrist senators and Republicans, it made explicit a notion that had only been hinted at before — that Mr. Biden not only intended to sign a second, more ambitious package, but that he would also go so far as to veto their bipartisan plan if the larger bill did not materialize.

“We never had an inkling that there would be any kind of linkage,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a key negotiator, said in an interview. “We always knew that there’d be another bill, but not that the success of the infrastructure package was going to be in any way dependent on the other bill.”

For more than 24 hours, the White House engaged in damage control, with top advisers calling senators from both parties. On Friday, the president’s spokeswoman gently tried to distance the administration from his comments.

It was not enough. And on Saturday, as lawmakers and aides continued to stew and the prospects of a legislative victory seemed to fade, Mr. Biden conceded that he had misspoken.

The drama does not appear to have sunk the deal, but Mr. Biden admitted that his comments on Thursday left “the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to.”

That was “certainly not my intent,” he added.

The agreement Mr. Biden heralded on Thursday initially looked like an unfettered triumph for a president who promised voters he could deliver legislation that was both boldly progressive and widely bipartisan.

It was weeks in the making.

By late May, Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, had cobbled together eight other centrist colleagues to discuss the possibilities of a bipartisan framework that could replicate the success that led to the passage of a $ 900 billion coronavirus relief bill in December.

“The easy stuff, I could just put a check mark on it and move on to the next one,” Ms. Sinema said in an interview. “The hard stuff is where you spend your time.”

Looming over the talks was the likelihood that liberal Democrats would use a fast-track process known as reconciliation to bypass the 60-vote filibuster threshold. Meetings grew ever more tense, and the senators invited Steve Ricchetti, a top adviser to Mr. Biden, Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Louisa Terrell, the director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.

For days, they crisscrossed the Capitol — including Ms. Sinema, who broke her foot running a marathon, on a crutch — to haggle in back rooms, often ordering in pizza, salads and wine. Mr. Portman’s hideaway grew so cramped with the additional staff that an aide to Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, braved the Senate bureaucracy to secure a fan for the room. During one late-night session, Mr. Ricchetti took it upon himself to walk around the table and pour wine for each senator, according to two people familiar with the moment.

Tempers flared, senators and aides acknowledged in interviews, as the senators clashed over how to finance the framework amid a Republican refusal to increase taxes and the White House’s objections to user fees for drivers.

On Wednesday, many of the centrist senators joined Mr. Biden at a funeral for former Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, before returning to the Capitol for what would be a final round of meetings with his legacy of striking bipartisan accords on their minds.

“What would John Warner do?” said Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, who is of no relation, but who considered him a friend. “John Warner would have hung in. I think probably almost everybody in that room went through some level of that reflection.”

Around 7 p.m., the 10 senators began to emerge with a unified message: They had a framework and they would be going to the White House the next day.

After weeks of closed-door negotiations, it appeared to be a moment of validation for a president certain in his ability to navigate difficult legislative negotiations, after months of talks that his own party had begun to worry were turning into a quagmire for his economic ambitions.

Mr. Biden’s team believed that by winning a bipartisan agreement, they would secure the support of centrist Democratic senators for the larger bill to provide paid leave, fight poverty and climate change and address a host of other liberal priorities, funded by tax increases on corporations and the rich. Some Republicans, egged on by business leaders, hoped to stop the larger bill by arguing to moderate Democrats that the more limited infrastructure bill was all that was needed.

Both lawmakers and Mr. Biden agreed it was also a significant moment to prove that the government could still function. (Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, contended that failure would show “we’re really, really, really dysfunctional.”)

“The message it sends to the American people, and also to our friends and adversaries around the world, is so important,” Mr. Warner said. “In a post-Jan. 6 world, it shows that people who come from different political views can still come together on national priorities.”

Progressive lawmakers had long sounded alarms, worried it was insufficient and would close off a larger bill. On Thursday morning, even as the president and the lawmakers prepared to make their deal public, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, took to the Senate floor to defuse their concerns by underscoring the plan that he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi had worked out with the president.

“These two efforts are tied together. Let me make that clear,” Mr. Schumer said. “Speaker Pelosi agrees that we cannot do one without the other. All parties understand that we won’t get enough votes to pass either unless we have enough votes to pass both.”

In his prepared remarks Thursday in the East Room, soon after celebrating with the senators in the White House driveway, Mr. Biden echoed that strategy.

“I’m going to work closely with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to make sure that both move through the legislative process promptly and in tandem,” he said. “Let me emphasize that — and in tandem.”

Democrats had expected a statement of that sort. They did not expect what Mr. Biden did moments later.

During the news conference in the East Room, a reporter sought clarification: “Mr. President, you said you want both of these measures to come to you ‘in tandem.’ Did you receive any assurances that that would happen?”

Mr. Biden said he expected that Congress would work on passage of both the bipartisan infrastructure measure and the bigger Democratic bill at the same time, echoing Mr. Schumer’s earlier comments. But then he went even further again.

“But if only one comes to me, I’m not — and if this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” he said. “It’s in tandem.”

With senators leaving Washington on Thursday afternoon for a two-week recess for Fourth of July, it was not until later in the evening that some in the group of negotiators saw Mr. Biden’s comments, which Republicans in particular interpreted as an implicit veto threat. Senators and their staff members began texting and calling one another and the White House.

Liberal Democrats scoffed at the Republican frustration and accused their counterparts of looking for an excuse to oppose the deal, even though the Democrats’ pursuit of reconciliation had long been public.

On Saturday, Mr. Biden finally acknowledged his mistake as lawmakers and aides signaled they would move forward with writing text and securing support.

“The bottom line is this,” he said. “I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that’s what I intend to do. I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday, with vigor. It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.”

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

Author: Emily Cochrane, Jim Tankersley and Michael D. Shear
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

China has ‘little intent’ to take over Taiwan by force – Top US general

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said on Thursday that despite rising tensions between the two nations, China does not plan to immediately take over the island state by force. He told lawmakers: “There’s little intent right now, or motivation, to do it militarily.”

“There’s no reason to do it militarily, and they know that. So, I think the probability is probably low, in the immediate, near-term future.

“My assessment in terms of capability, I think China has a ways to go to develop the actual, no-kidding capability to conduct military operations to seize through military means the entire island of Taiwan, if they wanted to do that.”

China has previously sparked fears of an all-out conflict due to its assertiveness toward Taiwan, a nation it regards as a breakaway state and has repeatedly threatened to take back by force if necessary.

On Monday, the 30 Nato member states voiced their concern over China creating “systemic challenges” for the transatlantic security alliance.

The military body issued a communique regarding Beijing’s combative stance following its summit in Brussels.

The statement read: “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security.”

The 79-point document claimed Beijing was “rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal” and being “opaque in implementing its military modernisation”.

It also highlighted China’s military links to Russia in their actions in the Euro-Atlantic region.

Nato also called on Beijing to comply with its international responsibilities.

The announcement read: “We call on China to uphold its international commitments and to act responsibly in the international system, including in the space, cyber, and maritime domains, in keeping with its role as a major power”

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg raised the alarm over Beijing’s “coercive behaviour”, and the impact it could have on member states’ security.

He said: “There are, of course, opportunities and we need to engage with China, on issues like climate change and arms controls.

“But China’s military build-up, growing influence and coercive behaviour also pose some challenges to our security, and we need to address them.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

‘Broken up but still living together’: Cristiano Ronaldo intent on quitting Juventus, claim reports in Italy

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Sport News

Reports from Italy have claimed that football legend Cristiano Ronaldo is adamant on an exit from Serie A giants Juventus following their Champions League exit to Porto, with the two parties ‘broken up but still living together’.

Local newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport broke the news on Friday, and wrote that the five-time Champions League and Ballon d’Or winner has asked his superagent Jorge Mendes to find him another club for the 2021/2022 season.

Ex-club Real Madrid can be ruled out, as the La Liga giants are mired in debt and rebuilding their Bernabeu stadium, while European Super League head Florentino Perez has additionally poured cold water on any approach.

“The rumors of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Madrid are just rumors from his entourage. There is nothing,” the president explained during his highly-controversial appearance on the El Larguero program. 

Also on rt.com ‘He sounds unhinged’: Real Madrid boss Perez says Super League ISN’T dead in ‘bizarre’ interview suggesting conspiracy killed plan

“In general, there will not be big transfers this summer,” Perez went on.

“When money does not flow from the rich clubs to the poor clubs, everyone suffers.”

“It’s impossible to make signings like [Kylian] Mbappe and [Erling] Haaland, in general, not just for Real Madrid, without the Super League,” he insisted.

Yet despite pulling out of the failed breakaway project, former club Manchester United are tipped as a possible next destination if Ronaldo can lower his current salary expectations of $ 37 million. 

Taxes would also be an issue, as the 36-year-old Portuguese star will need to pay more than in Italy.

But with Juve at risk of failing to qualify for the UCL and exiting it prematurely in this campaign to Porto, La Gazzetta claims that Ronaldo’s attitude has changed behind the scenes at the Allianz Stadium. 

“It’s almost like Juventus and Ronaldo have broken up but are still living together,” was the key takeaway from the Italian outlet’s piece.

With few friends there other than the Portuguese-speaking Brazilians and Carlo Pinsoglio, perhaps he won’t be missed by teammates who don’t enjoy as much “freedom” during Andrea Pirlo’s training sessions either.

Also on rt.com Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s rape accuser cites ‘pain and suffering’ as she demands $ 78MN for ‘assault’ in hotel room

Away from the football pitch, Ronaldo’s life is even more complicated. 

Yesterday, it emerged that former model Kathryn Mayorga, who is accusing Cristiano Ronaldo of sexually assaulting her in a Las Vegas hotel room after meeting on a night out in 2009, is now seeking a total of $ 78 million in damages, according to court documents.

Splitting her claim between “past pain and suffering”“future pain and suffering” and punitive damages, she also wishes to claim for smaller amounts covering expenses and legal fees.

Mayorga’s legal team has reportedly filed a list of more than 60 witnesses they are targeting to testify, including three police offers involved in the original complaint, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and ­his already-mentioned agent Jorge Mendes.

But Ronaldo has always denied the accusations stating: “Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in.”

Also on rt.com Ronaldo rape charges dropped

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