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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Criminal Referral? Jan. 6 Panel Eyes Witness Tampering Amid Trump Coup Plot

Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony Should Be the End of Donald Trump


Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony Should Be the End of Donald Trump

"Regardless of the legal obstacles to convicting the former President, Hutchinson’s testimony reconfirmed that he must never again be allowed anywhere near power.

On Tuesday morning, Hunter Biden started trending on social media—a surefire sign that the right was worried about the upcoming testimony of the former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, which was scheduled to begin at 1 P.M. Although the twenty-six-year-old Hutchinson, who worked for Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, wasn’t yet a public figure, it was known that she had spoken extensively to the January 6th committee—and there had even been stories suggesting she could turn out to be the John Dean of the Trump Administration.

In fact, there were no historical precedents for the testimony that Hutchinson delivered in an astonishing two hours of television after Bennie Thompson, the Democratic co-chair of the committee, swore her in. Answering questions from the co-chair, the Republican Liz Cheney, Hutchinson calmly described an utterly unhinged President who, on January 6, 2021, was so determined to join his supporters—many of them armed and, he knew well, intent on causing trouble—in their march on Capitol Hill that he tried to grab the steering wheel of his Presidential S.U.V., yelling “I’m the fucking President. Take me up to the Capitol now!” When the head of his Secret Service detail grabbed his arm and ordered Trump to return to the White House, he allegedly lunged at the agent’s throat. (On Wednesday night, several news organizations, quoting anonymous sources, reported that the agents who were with Trump disputed that he grabbed the steering wheel or lunged at the agent. A Secret Service spokesman told The New Yorker that the agents would respond on the record to the House committee regarding the incident.)

Regardless of this detail, Hutchinson’s testimony appeared to strengthen the criminal case against Trump. One of her revelations was that, a few days before January 6th, Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, had explicitly warned that if Trump did go to Capitol Hill on January 6th he could potentially be implicated in the crimes of obstructing justice and obstructing the electoral count. “This would be legally a terrible idea for us,” Hutchinson recounted Cipollone saying. She also testified that, on January 5th, Trump told Meadows to speak with Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, two Trump loyalists who were part of a “war room” at the Willard hotel. After initially trying to meet Flynn and Stone in person, Hutchinson said, Meadows then spoke with them by phone. (Hutchinson also recalled how, days earlier, Meadows had said to her, “Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.”)

It will be up to Merrick Garland to decide whether this adds up to a winnable case against Trump on charges of obstruction, incitement, or another offense, and the pressure is growing on him to act. “There is no doubt in my mind that [Trump] was involved in criminal activity,” Representative Elaine Luria, one of the Democratic members of the January 6th committee, told CNN after the hearing. Summing up what the evidence at each hearing is making ever more difficult to deny, Luria described the events of that day as “a conspiracy—a failed coup, essentially.”

As ever, the challenge to prosecutors would be proving that the former President had criminal intent in a case where he would insist that he sincerely believed the 2020 election had been stolen. Regardless of the legal obstacles to convicting Trump, however, Hutchinson’s testimony reconfirmed, in perhaps the most graphic way yet, that he must never again be allowed anywhere near power. If Dean, the White House counsel to the Nixon Administration, in his June, 1973, testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee, provided firsthand evidence that Richard Nixon was a scheming, lying coverup artist, Hutchinson provided an inside-the-West Wing confirmation that Trump isn’t fit to lead a support group for reformed rageaholics, let alone lead the country. The idea of the nuclear codes being handed back to him is surely now unthinkable.

When Trump reached the Ellipse on the morning of January 6th, Hutchinson observed that “he was fucking furious” that the relatively small crowd inside the secure area would look bad on television. In a tape of her previous testimony to the committee’s investigators, Hutchinson expanded on Trump’s mind-set. “He was furious about the mags”—magnetic metal detectors. “He was angry we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons.”

Hutchinson said that Trump demanded the Secret Service take down the checkpoints and let his supporters in with their weapons. She recounted how another White House staffer, Anthony Ornato, one of Meadows’s deputies, explained to Trump that the reason many of his supporters didn’t want to go through the checkpoints was that they wanted to go straight from the speech to the Capitol, and have with them their arms, which included AR-15 rifles and Glock pistols. Trump seemed unconcerned. Hutchinson recounted him saying, “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They aren’t here to hurt me. Take those effing mags away.”

During his speech, Trump told his supporters he would march with them to the Hill. After he finished and got into an armored black S.U.V., Hutchinson took up what happened as it was recounted to her a bit later in the day by Ornato. The head of Trump’s security detail, Bobby Engel, told him they couldn’t go the Capitol because the Secret Service didn’t have sufficient resources to guarantee his safety. It was then that Trump demanded to be driven to the Hill and reached for the steering wheel.

“Sir, you need to take your hand off of the steering wheel, we’re going back to the West Wing, we’re not going to the Capitol,” Engel informed Trump, according to Hutchinson. She went on: “Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Engel, and when Mr. Ornato recounted the story to me, he motioned to his clavicles.”

In a statement on his social-media platform, Trump dismissed Hutchinson’s testimony as “fake,” “sick,” and “fraudulent.” That was true to form. Hutchinson is far more believable. She said Engel was in the room when Ornato told her the story about the altercation in the Presidential vehicle and apparently didn’t correct or disagree with any of it. She also recounted Trump exhibiting out-of-control rage on other occasions, including in December, 2020, when he learned that his Attorney General, Bill Barr, had publicly dismissed his claims of election fraud.

Hutchinson, whose West Wing office was down a short hall from the Oval Office and the President’s dining room, recalled how she heard a loud noise and went to investigate. “I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall, and there was a shattered porcelain plate,” she said. “The valet had articulated that the President was extremely angry at the Attorney General’s AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall, which was causing them to have to clean up. So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out.”

That was the reaction of a normal person. Trump, as we all know, and as Hutchinson’s historic testimony has vividly reconfirmed, is not nearly normal. If this doesn’t finish him, what will? ♦

This article has been updated to include new developments."

New York Fights Back on Guns and Abortion After Supreme Court Rulings


New York Fights Back on Guns and Abortion After Supreme Court Rulings

Lawmakers passed measures that would prohibit concealed weapons in a number of public places. They are also poised to move forward on a bill to protect abortion rights.

Gov. Kathy Hochul at a special session of the New York State Legislature, which moved to enact measures responding to the Supreme Court’s rulings on guns and abortion.
Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

A week after the Supreme Court issued monumental rulings loosening restrictions on carrying guns and overturning the constitutional right to abortion, New York began to enact sweeping measures designed to blunt the decisions’ effects.

In an extraordinary session convened by Gov. Kathy Hochul that began Thursday and carried late into Friday evening, the State Legislature adopted a new law placing significant restrictions on the carrying of handguns and initiated the process of passing a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to abortion in the state of New York.

The new legislation illustrates the growing distance between a conservative-led court that has reasserted its influence in American political life and blue states such as New York — one of the most left-leaning in the nation, where all three branches of government are controlled by Democrats and President Biden easily triumphed over Donald J. Trump in 2020.

As Republican-led states race rightward, the New York Legislature’s moves this week provided a preview of an intensifying clash between the court and Democratic states that will likely play out for years to come.

“We’re not going backwards,” Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Albany on Friday. “They may think they can change our lives with the stroke of a pen, but we have pens, too.”

She made remarks on the coming July 4 holiday, asking New Yorkers to remember what was being commemorated: “the founding of a great country that cherished the rights of individuals, freedoms and liberty for all.”

“I am standing here to protect freedom and liberty here in the state of New York,” she added.

During a special session of the New York State Legislature, lawmakers passed a new bill restricting concealed weapons.
Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

The state’s new gun law bars the carrying of handguns in many public settings such as subways and buses, parks, hospitals, stadiums and day cares. Guns will be off-limits on private property unless the property owner indicates that he or she expressly allows them. At the last minute, lawmakers added Times Square to the list of restricted sites.

The law also requires permit applicants to undergo 16 hours of training on the handling of guns and two hours of firing range training, as well as an in-person interview and a written exam. Applicants will also be subject to the scrutiny of local officials, who will retain some discretion in the permitting process.

Enshrining the right to abortion in the state’s constitution will be more onerous. Amending the State Constitution is a yearslong process, which starts with passage by the Legislature. Then, after a general election, another session of the Legislature must pass the amendment before it is presented to voters in a ballot referendum.

But lawmakers took a first step on Friday when the Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which along with guaranteeing rights to abortion and access to contraception, prohibited the government from discriminating against anyone based on a list of qualifications including race, ethnicity, national origin, disability or sex — specifically noting sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and pregnancy on the list of protected conditions. (An Assembly vote was expected to follow.)

Some of the protected classes in the language of the measure appeared to anticipate future rulings from the court, which also indicated last week that it might overturn cases that established the right to same-sex marriage, same-sex consensual relations and contraception.

“We’re playing legislative Whac-a-Mole with the Supreme Court,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat. “Any time they come up with a bad idea we’ll counter it with legislation at the state level.”

“Civil liberties are hanging in the balance,” he added.

New York Republicans, who have little sway in either legislative chamber, split over the Equal Rights Amendment, with seven voting in favor and 13 against. But they were united in opposition against the concealed carry bill, saying Democrats had tipped the balance much too heavily in favor of restrictions.

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“Instead of addressing the root of the problem and holding violent criminals accountable, Albany politicians are preventing law-abiding New Yorkers, who have undergone permit classes, background checks and a licensing process from exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” said Robert Ortt, the Republican leader in the Senate, who is from Western New York.

The session in Albany took place just a week after the Supreme Court — now fully in the control of right-leaning justices, three of whom were appointed by Mr. Trump — moved forward on a pair of issues that have long animated conservatives.

Last Thursday, it struck down New York’s century-old law that was among the strictest in the nation in regulating the public carrying of guns. The decision found that the law, which required that applicants demonstrate that they had a heightened need to carry a firearm in public, was too restrictive and allowed local officials too much discretion. The court invited states to update their laws.

The following day, the court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping Americans of the constitutional right to abortion nearly 50 years after it was first granted.

New York will be the first of six states directly affected by the gun ruling to pass a new law restricting the carrying of guns. Similar legislation has been proposed in New Jersey, where a top legislative leader said this week it was possible lawmakers could be called back into session this summer to respond.

Officials there have coordinated directly with their counterparts in New York, and the two laws are expected to share many features.

Lawmakers in Hawaii have also said that they are working on new firearm legislation, while officials in California, Maryland and Massachusetts are discussing how the court’s decision should be addressed in their states.

In an interview, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate majority leader in New York, said that Democratic leaders were adamant that New York “model what state legislatures all over this nation can do to reaffirm the rights of their residents.”

The State Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, center, holds a news conference on Friday during the second day of the special legislative session in Albany.
Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

She defended the new concealed carry restrictions as a common-sense safety measure that balanced Second Amendment interests laid out by the Supreme Court with concerns about legally carrying weapons into sensitive or crowded places, particularly in dense urban areas like New York City already facing a scourge of gun violence.

“We didn’t want an open season,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins said. “In the environment that we are in, it is important to make sure that we are creating a process that respects what the Supreme Court has said but allows us to keep New Yorkers as safe as possible.”

Republicans disagreed.

“If you look at the sensitive areas, it’s the entire state, it’s everywhere,” said State Senator Andrew Lanza, a member of Republican leadership from Staten Island. “So much of New York is now considered a sensitive area for the purpose of this law that there is no such thing as a concealed permit anymore.”

Andrew Lanza, center, the deputy minority leader, spoke against the New York State Senate’s gun safety legislation on Friday, saying, “There is no such thing as a concealed permit anymore.”
Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

Two other states, California and Vermont, have also moved closer to placing abortion protections in their constitutions. This week, lawmakers in California advanced a constitutional amendment enshrining the right, and in November, residents of both states will vote on whether to make the amendments law.

Republican-led states are charging hard in the other direction. So far, seven have banned abortion since the justices’ decision last week. Another half dozen, including Texas and Tennessee, are expected to quickly follow suit. And voters in states like Kentucky and Kansas will soon decide whether to ban the practice via referendum.

By pushing so quickly in New York to respond to both rulings, Ms. Hochul and Democratic legislative leaders have kept the state on a path set by her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, during Mr. Trump’s presidency. Before allegations of sexual misconduct from a number of women led to his resignation, Mr. Cuomo was explicit in juxtaposing his agenda with the priorities of the Republican president, saying in late 2018 that he was declaring New York’s independence.

State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, the deputy majority leader, said New Yorkers should expect more of the same in the coming years.

“The Supreme Court seems intent on destroying this country one decision at a time,” he said in an interview. “Today, we made clear that New York will stand up against this rollback of rights that we’ve come to expect in the United States. You can expect we will continuing doing this as the court keeps issuing horrible decisions.”

Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Grace Ashford, Tracey Tully and Hurubie Meko contributed reporting."

Democracy advocates raise alarm after Supreme Court takes election case

Democracy advocates raise alarm after Supreme Court takes election case

"The decision to consider “independent legislature theory” concerned voting rights advocates who say state lawmakers could twist the election laws to favor their party

A districts map is shown as a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court presides over the trial of Common Cause v. Lewis at the Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, July 15, 2019. (Gerry Broome/AP)

Voting rights advocates expressed alarm Friday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court said it will consider a conservative legal theory giving state legislatures virtually unchecked power over federal elections, warning that it could erode basic tenets of American democracy.

The idea, known as the “independent legislature theory,” represents to some theorists a literal reading of the Constitution.

But in its most far-reaching interpretation, it could cut governors and state courts out of the decision-making process on election laws while giving state lawmakers free rein to change rules to favor their own party. The impact could extend to presidential elections in 2024 and beyond, experts say, making it easier for a legislature to disregard the will of its state’s citizens.

This immense power would go to legislative bodies that are themselves undemocratic, many advocates say, because they have been gerrymandered to create partisan districts, virtually ensuring the party-in-power’s candidates cannot be beaten. Republicans control both legislative chambers in 30 states and have been at the forefront of pushing the theory.

The Supreme Court’s choice to take up the case came less than a week after the nation’s highest court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving it to state legislatures to decide whether abortion should be legal, and two days after bombshell testimony before the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The committee has offered fresh evidence suggesting President Donald Trump sought to disrupt the congressional counting of electoral votes to allow state legislatures time to send alternate slates of electors as part of a bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

State legislatures have already introduced or enacted laws in a number of GOP-controlled states that voting rights groups say make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Experts say if the Supreme Court adopts the independent legislature theory, it would give state lawmakers ultimate control over election-related decisions like redistricting, as well as issues such as voting qualifications and voting by mail.

“This is part of a broader strategy to make voting harder and impose the will of state legislatures regardless of the will of the people,” said Suzanne Almeida, director of state operations for Common Cause, a nonpartisan pro-democracy group. “It is a significant change to the power of state courts to rein in state legislatures.”

The case could also open the door for state legislatures to claim ultimate control over electors in presidential elections, said Marc Elias, a veteran Democratic voting rights attorney.

“If you believe the strongest form of [the theory] then the legislators can do what they want and there’s no judicial review of that,” Elias said. “The way I view it, Republicans tried to subvert the 2020 election, but were clumsy and they are now learning from that where the pressure points and vulnerabilities are in our election systems, and refining their tactics.”

The case that will go before the high court originates with North Carolina Republicans, who are appealing a state supreme court ruling that struck down the state’s new congressional map as an unconstitutional gerrymander.

The Republicans argue that the Constitution’s elections clause, which says that “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof,” means the legislatures alone have power over elections-related activities. Past interpretations have taken the clause to mean state governments as a whole, including voters and the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

“This phony ‘doctrine’ is an anti-democratic Republican power grab masquerading as legal theory. It was cooked up in a right-wing legal hothouse by political operatives looking to give state legislatures the power to overturn the will of American voters in future elections,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in a statement to The Washington Post.

The theory, Whitehouse said, was wielded by Trump attorney John Eastman as he sought to “overturn the last presidential election, and it could plant seeds of chaos in time for the next one. The fact that the Court is even considering a case involving such an extreme idea shows how beholden it is to the right-wing donors who got so many of the justices their jobs.”

Among the most outspoken advocates of the independent state legislature theory is the Honest Elections Project, an alias of the 85 Fund, a conservative nonprofit linked to Leonard Leo, the former longtime head of the Federalist Society. The 85 Fund reported revenue of more than $65 million in 2020, according to a tax filing, and its relationship with the Honest Elections Project is made clear in corporate records in Virginia.

The Honest Elections Project has made the case for the independent state legislature theory in amicus briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in recent years. It cited the theory by name in a January brief in a dispute, also arising from North Carolina, over whether state lawmakers could intervene in litigation challenging the state’s voter ID law. The high court ruled 8-1 in favor of the lawmakers on June 23, but did not weigh in on the merits of voter ID laws or the legal theory.

In its amicus brief, the Honest Elections Project noted that the Supreme Court had discussed the theory but never made clear “that the doctrine is our law.”

“It should do so here,” the group urged in its brief.

The Honest Elections Project made multiple references to a 2021 article in the Fordham Law Review explaining the theory. The article’s author, Michael T. Morley, is a professor at the Florida State University College of Law and a contributor to the Federalist Society.

An earlier brief from the Honest Elections Project, in a dispute over the 2020 election between Pennsylvania Republicans and the state’s Democratic secretary of state, did not cite the theory by name but argued that state legislatures have sweeping authority over federal elections — unrestricted by state constitutions.

The lead attorney on the brief, David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said the theory, if embraced by the Supreme Court, would not shield state electoral maps from challenges based on racial discrimination or other claims rooted in the U.S. Constitution or federal statute. But it would nullify other grounds for rejecting state maps, including claims of partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that federal courts had no jurisdiction over claims of partisan gerrymandering, leaving that issue to state courts.

Voting rights advocates point to that decision, specifically a quote from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., as evidence that the Supreme Court has previously believed state courts have an oversight role.

“Provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply” in policing partisan gerrymandering, Roberts wrote for the majority in Rucho v. Common Cause.

Rivkin, in an interview, touted his role in honing the theory. He dismissed concerns that it would pave the way for state legislatures to achieve the kind of election manipulation sought by Trump and Eastman. Rivkin said he placed no stock in “idiotic arguments used by Trump.”

“If you ask me as a strictly constitutional and analytical matter, state legislatures can indeed recapture the power to choose electors themselves,” he said. “I can also tell you as a pragmatic matter, I don’t know of any state legislature that has done that.”

Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project — created in 2020 to counter Democratic efforts to expand voting rights — similarly brushed off predictions that state legislatures would usurp power to choose electors. Snead, in an interview, argued that the doctrine “should be taken out of the context of Jan. 6 and what happened that day, which was absolutely terrible.”

“This is not a novel idea,” he said. “We’re talking about first principles and constitutional text.”

But the language in the Constitution pertaining to elections has never been interpreted that way. A version of the independent legislature theory got some buy-in during the Bush v. Gore lawsuit that determined the outcome of the 2000 election, in which the court sided with Republicans. Justices William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion that the Supreme Court could overrule a state Supreme Court’s interpretation of its election laws to “preserve the state legislature’s power over how the state runs its presidential elections.”

Fifteen years later, the court narrowly rejected a challenge from Arizona’s Republican-led state legislature using the independent legislature theory to argue against an independent redistricting commission drawing maps.

In a 2020 case about mail-in ballot deadlines in Wisconsin, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch seemed to endorse the theory, writing, “The Constitution provides that state legislatures — not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials — bear primary responsibility for setting election rules.”

David Cohen, the founder and CEO of Forward Majority, a nonprofit aimed at electing Democrats in state legislatures, said the fact that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court is entertaining the idea makes his group’s work that much more urgent.

“To me, the scary versions of this are legislators who throw out valid American votes in order to achieve their partisan outcome,” Cohen said. “We should all be incredibly worried about any system that would allow for that possibility.”

Robert Barnes contributed to this report."

Mark Meadows’ associate threatened ex-White House aide before her testimony

Mark Meadows’ associate threatened ex-White House aide before her testimony

“It was the second warning Cassidy Hutchinson had received before her deposition, cautioning her against cooperating with the panel

Mark Meadows walks with senior aide Cassidy Hutchinson before boarding Air Force One in July 2020.
Mark Meadows walks with senior aide Cassidy Hutchinson before boarding Air Force One in July 2020.Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson received at least one message tacitly warning her not to cooperate with the House January 6 select committee from an associate of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The message in question was the second of the two warnings that the select committee disclosed at the end of its special hearing when Hutchinson testified about how Donald Trump directed a crowd he knew was armed to march on the Capitol, the sources said.

“[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition,” read the message. The redaction was Meadows, the sources said.

The message was presented during closing remarks at the special hearing with Hutchinson by the panel’s vice-chair, Liz Cheney, who characterized the missive as improper pressure on a crucial witness that could extend to illegal witness tampering or intimidation.

The exact identity of the person who sent Hutchinson the message – beyond the fact that they were an associate of Meadows – could not be confirmed on Thursday, but that may be in part because the select committee may wish to interview that person, the sources said.

That appears to indicate that the person who sent the message was a close associate of the former White House chief of staff who may themselves be a fact witness to what Trump and Meadows were doing and thinking ahead of the Capitol attack.

Trump tried to grab car’s steering wheel to go to Capitol Hill, former aide testifies – video

Neither a spokesman for Meadows nor Hutchinson responded to a request for comment on Thursday evening.

The other message was also directed at Hutchinson, the sources said; the quote displayed on the slide was one of several calls from Trump allies that Hutchinson recounted to House investigators.

“What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in the good graces in Trump World,” the slide read.

“And they reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind as I proceeded through my depositions and interviews with the committee.”

The identity of the people who called Hutchinson, warning her presumably not to implicate the former president, could not be established beyond the fact that they were people close to Trump, though the select committee is understood to be aware of all of the people.

Politico, which first reported that the message to Hutchinson came from an associate of Meadows, also reported that it came before her second interview with the select committee. Hutchinson changed lawyers before her fourth deposition that preceded her public testimony.”

Texas Gov. Abbott, Atty. Gen. Paxton usher in moves against abortion, gay rights - The Washington Post

Texas thrusts itself into the center of battles over personal freedom

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) (Eric Gay/AP)
"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) (Eric Gay/AP)

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic reversal of Roe v. Wade, Texas appears poised to cement its place at the center of the battle over personal freedoms that have been guaranteed by law for decades.

Leaders in the Republican-dominated state have already enacted one of the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation and been in the forefront of devising measures that would criminalize parents’ efforts to seek medical treatment for their transgender children. Now, the state’s conservative attorney general, Ken Paxton, has signaled that he is willing to revisit the state’s anti-sodomy law, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003 to protect intimacy between same-sex partners.

“People are still reeling from Roe, and we’re in an incredibly toxic political environment right now,” said Oni Blair, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. “But we need to recognize that nothing is off the table at this moment. All of our rights and liberties — from LGBTQ equality, voting and even contraception — could be at risk.”

The group has trained hundreds of abortion rights advocates in recent months as part of its Texas Abortion Access Network. It has also prevailed, for now, in a lawsuit in which a judge issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday that will allow doctors to continue performing abortion procedures in some Texas clinics until a hearing July 12.

In an interview on the NewsNation cable channel soon after the overturning of Roe last week, Paxton told anchor Leland Vittert that he would be “willing and able” to defend any state law prohibiting sodomy brought as a test case before the Supreme Court. The question came up because, in his concurring opinion in the abortion case, Justice Clarence Thomas questioned high court rulings establishing same-sex marriage and the right of married couples to use contraception and, in the Texas case, outlawing criminalization of gay intimacy.

“Yeah, look, my job is to defend state law, and I’ll continue to do that,” Paxton told Vittert. “That is my job under the Constitution, and I’m certainly willing and able to do that.” (Paxton in May won the Republican nomination for a third term despite a seven-year-old securities fraud indictment, a separate FBI corruption investigation, and a bar review over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Paxton has denied wrongdoing in all those cases.)

Paxton’s remarks sent a chill through Texas’s LGBTQ and human rights community, which fears that in the coming weeks the conservative state and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) could take on other long-standing protections governing bodily autonomy and gay rights, threatening progress gained over decades of struggle.

“We put up a valiant fight here, and we are being attacked in every direction,” said Ricardo Martinez, chief executive of Equality Texas, an LGBTQ rights group. “It is not the government’s business who we have sex with. They’ve intruded into doctor’s office and the classroom; now they want to intrude into the bedroom. This is government overreach.”

Neither Paxton’s office nor Abbott’s spokeswoman, Renae Eze, responded to calls or emails requesting comment.

Martinez said his group successfully fought back against most of the 76 anti-LGBTQ bills offered in the Texas legislature last year, a significant increase from the less than 20 introduced in the previous session in 2019.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said the overturning of Roe is the “first domino of many more rights restrictions that Republicans in Texas have been aiming at for a long time.”

He said Texas officials could push for criminal penalties for sodomy and attempt to enforce the state’s 2005 ban on same-sex marriage, which was struck down in 2014.

The state legislature could also codify into law Abbott’s new directive — based on a nonbinding opinion by Paxton — that Texas’s Department of Family and Protective Services consider gender-affirming treatments for transgender children as child abuse. Three families of transgender children — one who allegedly attempted suicide — are now suing the state.

Rottinghaus noted that Paxton has always used his office to push a conservative social agenda and that, in that respect, it is not surprising he would be at the forefront of moving to shape the post-Roe legal world in Texas. After the court’s decision was announced, Paxton closed his office for the day and created an agency holiday to honor the decision, while Abbott said that the court had “correctly overturned” Roe and that he would continue to work with the legislature to “save every child from the ravages of abortion.”

The Texas abortion law, which went into effect Sept. 1, banned the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy — before many realize they are pregnant — and did not allow exceptions for victims of rape, sexual abuse or incest.

Texas’s Republican Party has been drifting to the right for the past two decades, accelerating that movement since the rise of Donald Trump in 2016. Republicans now hold every statewide elective office and supermajorities in both legislative chambers, in part because of gerrymandered district lines. The U.S. Justice Department sued Texas in December, alleging that the state violated the Voting Rights Act by diminishing the power of Latinos and other minorities, majorities of whom vote for Democrats.

“Everywhere you look there’s a Republican willing to proceed on a right-leaning policy course,” Rottinghaus said. “They feel very free politically to make a conservative case in the state.”

The Texas GOP made its path ahead clear at its annual convention this month in Houston.

Republican activists passed a resolution that rejected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and referred to President Biden as an illegitimate president. The delegates also called for a repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and, in the party platform, referred to homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice.”

Convention-goers also vigorously booed and formally rebuked U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for his role in crafting a bipartisan gun bill passed after the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Tex., in which 19 students and two teachers were killed.

“What we’re seeing really is a Republican Party almost completely playing to the base,” said Kirby Goidel, a political science professor at Texas A&M University. “Abbott has gone from a low-key governor to thinking he was going to be challenged in a primary and really moving to cover his flank.”

Abbott’s rhetoric — on guns, the border, “pornography” in school libraries and transgender rights — has become increasingly extreme in recent months, which has served him well so far in an election year in which he beat back conservative challengers in the primary. His Democratic opponent, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, has focused on abortion rights and gun control as major themes, but Abbott has a comfortable lead in the polls, anywhere from five to 11 percentage points.

Abbott and another Republican governor, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, have been jockeying for dominance and the inheritance of Trump’s mantle ahead of the midterm elections. Although he has been less forceful than Abbott on abortion, DeSantis has mounted a high-profile campaign against Walt Disney Co. for its opposition to Florida’s bill banning the teaching of gender-related issues to schoolchildren in third grade and lower — dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill by opponents — and has fought fiercely against Biden’s coronavirus vaccine recommendations.

Texas Democrats’ long-voiced dreams of turning the rapidly diversifying state in their direction are looking more remote, with the latest sign arriving with the victory of Republican Mayra Flores, who won a special election in South Texas’s Latino-dominated 34th Congressional District this month. Republicans have been making gains among Hispanic voters in South Texas in recent years — Flores’s district went for Biden by four percentage points, a far smaller margin of victory for Democrats than in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Democrats’ hopes depend on the party continuing to garner two-thirds of the vote among the growing Latino population, according to Matthew Wilson, an associate political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. And that’s hardly a sure thing, he said: Flores’s victory and Trump’s 2020 gains in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere should be “warning signs for Democrats.”

The decision striking down Roe and the potential implications for the LGBTQ community — as well as recent disruptions and threats to Pride events by right-wing extremists — cast a pall over the Rio Grande Valley’s Pride parade, according to Joe Colon-Uvalles, a Brownsville resident and campaign specialist with the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Revelers on South Padre Island on Saturday cheered and waved rainbow flags but also heard a local drag queen, Luna Karr, exhort the crowd to register and vote.

“We’re willing to take on any fight. We have to protect ourselves from anyone — including the attorney general — who would threaten our rights,” Colon-Uvalles said. “It’s a scary world right now that we live in.”

Scott Clement contributed to this report."

Texas Gov. Abbott, Atty. Gen. Paxton usher in moves against abortion, gay rights - The Washington Post