Violence erupted nearly 600 times during protests in America’s largest cities this past summer, resulting in the injury of more than 2,000 police officers.
Those are the findings of a recently released survey of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the professional association representing the police chiefs in America’s 68 largest cities. MCCA agencies reported some 8,700 protests between the death of George Floyd on May 25 and the end of July, with some cities seeing over a thousand protests in that two-month period.
The report offers one of the first estimates of the scale of the disorder that swept the nation in June and July, as well as the impact it had on police departments. “The sheer volume of protests,” the report explains, “combined with the level of civil disobedience and existence of some ultra-violent events, created an extraordinarily challenging environment for law enforcement agencies.”
That environment likely also contributed to nationwide spikes in violent crime, as well as a wave of police retirements and resignations across cities big and small. And it has yet to abate: Eighty-five percent of departments reported protests are still ongoing.
Of the protests its member cities saw, the MCCA estimates that roughly 7 percent were violent, confirming a previous estimate from Wisconsin-based nonprofit the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. But that violence was widespread, with reporting agencies seeing violence at an average of 10 percent of protests. Violence was particularly common when out-of-state protesters appeared at protests, and from “far left” protesters, whom 78 percent of departments reported seeing.
A further 42 percent were classified as nonviolent civil disobedience. But those acts were not necessarily free of danger, including “the takeover of a freeway or roadway, blocking traffic, and refusing to cooperate with lawful orders.” These actions, the MCCA reports, “still posed a danger to innocent bystanders” and sometimes “resulted in confrontations and violence.”
Many of those harmed were officers on duty. Seventy-two percent of agencies saw officers injured between May and July, totaling over 2,000—one agency saw 50 injured in a single week. MCCA members reported the widespread use of rocks, bricks, frozen bottles, fireworks, poles, and bats to assault officers. Ninety-seven police cars were also burned. By comparison, agencies reported using nonlethal methods of crowd control in just 2 to 3 percent of protests, less than half of the number of protests that turned violent.
The protests did lead to widespread arrests: more than 16,000, including 2,735 for felonies. But half of agencies reported that their local district attorneys mostly refused to prosecute protesters, even those engaged in felonies. And the money poured into bail funds across the country freed many of those temporarily jailed, allowing them to attend the next protest and reoffend.
This situation has likely contributed to two major trends: a collapse of police morale and a rise in violent crime. The MCCA found that 55 percent of agencies reported low or very low officer morale. That, along with widespread budget cuts, explains why half of America’s big cities have seen officers or chiefs retire or resign since the beginning of the year.
The resource demands of continued, massive protests are likely also a driving factor in the homicide and violent crime spike some cities saw over the summer. In Minneapolis, the onset of protests corresponded with a rise in gun violence and a steep drop in police stop-and-frisk activity. And in New York City, arrest rates plummeted following the protests, allowing a similar shooting problem to go unrestrained.
ABU DHABI—As the Trump administration finishes its final weeks in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened up about his two-and-a-half years as America’s top diplomat, telling the Washington Free Beacon that the incoming Biden administration will inherit a fundamentally realigned globe.
During an interview with the Free Beacon in Abu Dhabi, where Pompeo was finishing the final stop in a 7-country, 10-day jaunt—likely his last major tour in office—Pompeo pulled the curtain back on his efforts to align the globe against adversarial regimes such as China and Iran.
Many of the Trump administration’s signature foreign policy achievements—from crushing the Iranian regime with sanctions to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem—were met with fierce pushback from world leaders, as well as Democrats and sometimes Republicans in Congress. Pompeo was quickly billed by the American press as dangerous—criticism that Pompeo says is devoid of reality.
Take his latest trip, for instance: Pompeo stopped in France, Turkey, Israel, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. From these places he generated headlines for offending world leaders and leaning into a hardline pro-Israel, anti-Iran foreign policy that the Biden administration is more than likely to buck. Pompeo says, however, the policies laid down by the Trump administration—be it the administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or its tight-knit relationship with Gulf Arab nations—will reverberate well into President-elect Joe Biden’s first term in office.
“These were just facts that everyone knew but refused to acknowledge and we ripped the band-aids, said these are the right things to do, and we got America and the Middle East in a better place,” Pompeo said. “I think the American people get it. I think the people in Europe get it. I know the people throughout the Middle East get it, that this realism … rests on a set of foundations that are unassailable.”
In France, Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries, Pompeo focused on Iran and its continued efforts to procure a nuclear weapon. Though the Biden administration is angling to reenter the landmark nuclear deal—paving the way for Tehran to revive its ailing economy—Gulf Arab partners are not likely to go along willingly. Pompeo spent much of his term solidifying ties with regional Arab players such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who share the United States’ hardline position on Iran.
“Iran is more isolated than it has ever been, [and] the Gulf states are now working together in ways that literally four years ago I don’t think anybody would have believed was possible,” Pompeo said.
Trump administration policies toward Israel are also likely to remain in place. While in the Jewish state last week, Pompeo became the first U.S. official in history to visit a West Bank winery and the contested Golan Heights area, which Israel seized in 1967. Biden’s State Department will not easily overturn these policies.
These policies make sense to Israel and their Gulf partners, Pompeo said.
“It fits with their understanding of the risk to their people,” Pompeo said. “So whether it’s in the Gulf states or Israel, I think they have come to appreciate that the policies that this administration put in place are the ones that are best for them, for their relationship and partnership with the United States of America.”
“I’m confident more will follow,” Pompeo said of other Arab nations likely to make peace with Israel.
The peace accords also are a sign of deeper U.S. ties with Israel’s traditional enemies, Pompeo said. The UAE, for example, is in line to receive more than $20 billion in U.S. weapons, including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, MQ-9B drones, and advanced munitions systems—a massive military package that only would have been approved for Israel in years past.
While Pompeo was assailed in the media for stepping foot in disputed areas of Israel, peace talks with Arab nations continued. The BBC, for instance, wrote, “Trumplomacy: Mike Pompeo eyes history on Israel swansong trip.” The article accused Pompeo of inflaming Palestinian leaders and positioning himself as a contender in the 2024 presidential election.
Asked about these critics, Pompeo described the reports as “longing for a time that is based on fantasy, when in fact, I think the world has moved away from that understanding that the lefties at the BBC hold so dearly.”
Pompeo said he is not focusing on what is to come next year, but spending his final months in office ensuring President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies continue to challenge the conventional foreign policy establishment.
“We didn’t spend any time talking about what the—what might happen in January of next year,” Pompeo said. “We spent a lot of time thinking about what we ought to do in November of this year and how we ought to continue—collectively, not just the United States, but continue collectively—to increase security in the region and get an even broader coalition.”
Cornell University activists threatened student government representatives who voted against disarming the campus police.
3. Harvard Creates New ‘Antiracist’ Librarian Job with $240,300 Salary | The College Fix
Harvard University created a new librarian position called an “Associate University Librarian for Antiracism” with a salary grade listed between $133,300 and $240,300.
2. Columbia Faculty Member Wants to ‘Cancel’ Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree | The Blaze
A Columbia University faculty member called for an end to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, claiming that the tree exemplifies the “absolutely toxic relationship” humans have with nature.
1. Students Want to Change Thanksgiving to ‘Thanks-taking’ or ‘Thanks-killing’ | Campus Reform
The student government at Santa Rosa Junior College in California discussed changing the name of Thanksgiving because it’s “dangerous” and “offensive,” arguing that “Thanks-taking” or “Thanks-killing” would be more “honest” names for the holiday.
A Joe Biden White House could be a boon for union activists as the Democrat seeks to implement a controversial California labor law nationwide.
House Democrats passed the PRO Act in February 2020 in a mostly party-line vote. The bill empowers the National Labor Relations Board to fine employers for violations of employee rights and allows the classification of independent contractors as employees. It also weakens right-to-work laws in more than half of the states in the country.
Michael Lotito, co-chair of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute (WPI), said that the adoption of the PRO Act on the federal level would be one of the most dramatic labor reforms in American history. “It’s like putting 100 Christmases together as a gift to labor,” he told the WashingtonFree Beacon in a phone interview.
The bill is similar to California’s Assembly Bill 5, passed last year. AB5 created a three-step test to limit the employers’ ability to classify their employees as independent contractors. A report from Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute suggests a Biden administration could adopt similarly pro-union standards in 2021.
“The PRO Act is viewed by some as an attempt to restore organized labor’s role in Democratic Party policymaking,” the WPI report states. “The act’s future depends on the two Senate races in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.”
“If Republicans maintain control, the PRO Act will almost certainly fail to advance,” the report continues. “In that case, the Biden administration would have to shape labor policy by other means, including by flipping the National Labor Relations Board majority and appointing a Democratic general counsel during President-elect Biden’s first year in office.”
On his campaign website, Biden called for implementing California’s employer-classification standards to target the gig economy and other industries that rely on independent contractors. Federal labor laws would be more difficult to challenge in court than state labor laws, Lotito said.
“On a nationwide scale, the ABC test, or the situation in California, then becomes the law of the land in all 50 states,” he said. “The independent contractor model is going to be destroyed as a result of the ABC test.”
The adoption of the principles of AB5 on a national scale in the PRO Act would have widespread impact on how employees are classified. The California law is already being challenged in state and federal courts by small-business owners and franchise operations. Kerry Jackson, a California Studies fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, said the policies have already hindered the Golden State’s economy and could do even more damage if applied federally.
“AB5 has already wrecked the personal finances of many in California and stripped workers of their freedom,” Jackson told the Free Beacon. “It’s also a threat to any business that relies on independent contractors to be profitable. On a national basis, the damage would be even worse.”
A Biden presidency would be able to accomplish reforms through executive orders. Biden, who did not respond to request for comment, stressed his commitment to supporting worker unionization by saying he would impose “a personal price” on business leaders who resist attempts to unionize.
“I’m going to hold company executives personally liable for interfering with workers who are attempting to unionize. It’s not enough just to have their corporations pay a fine. If they’re part of the problem, they are going to pay a personal price,” he said.
Labor unions donated more than $1 million to Biden’s presidential campaign, and 87 percent of unions’ total contributions went to Democratic candidates or causes.
Jackson said that Biden does not need control of Congress to enact regulations that will harm employers.
“I imagine he’ll use executive orders as much as the courts will allow him to,” Jackson said. “His boss of eight years was not shy about using his pen and phone to make rules he couldn’t legitimately get out of Congress.”
Natan Sharansky has been a computer scientist, a chess player, a refusenik, a dissident, a political prisoner, a party leader, a government minister, a nonprofit executive, and a bestselling author. He never expected to be a school counselor.
But the coronavirus dashes expectations. In early March, when the virus began to appear in Jewish communities outside New York City, Sharansky found himself online, in an unaccustomed position. He began to share with students and parents whose schools were closed how he had coped during years in confinement.
“At first, it seemed absurd, even obscene,” Sharansky writes in his latest book, Never Alone, coauthored with the historian Gil Troy. “How could my experience of playing chess in my head in my punishment cell compare to being cooped up in gadget-filled homes wired to the internet—with computer chess—especially because this isolation is imposed to protect people, not break them?”
What Sharansky realized is that the costs of lockdowns do not depend on the reasons behind them. The sudden and seemingly arbitrary interruption of individual plans, movements, and relationships causes psychological harm. Sharansky recorded a brief YouTube video for the Jewish Agency—you can watch it here—offering his five tips for quarantine. Recognize the importance of your choices and behavior, Sharansky advised. Understand that some things are beyond your control. Keep laughing. Enjoy your hobbies. Consider yourself part of a larger cause.
“Surprisingly,” Sharansky writes, “this short clip went viral, reaching so many people all over the world within a few days that it made me wonder why even bother writing this book.” His reaction was another example of his droll and often self-deprecating wit. The video, however helpful it may be, does not match the power and wisdom of Never Alone. Part autobiography, part meditation on Jewish community, the book ties together the themes of Sharansky’s earlier work, from his prison memoir, Fear No Evil (1988), to his defense of cultural particularity, Defending Identity (2008). It is a moving story of emancipation and connection, of freedom and meaning.
Sharansky was born in 1948 in the Ukrainian city of Stalino. His given name was Anatoly. His parents were educated professionals who downplayed their Jewish identity. They did not want to risk political and social reprisal. “The only real Jewish experience I had was facing anti-Semitism,” he writes. The precocious youth spent his early years playing chess. He learned to navigate a Soviet system that maintained its rule through fear. He became captive to doublethink. He repeated official lies and myths not because it was the right thing to do, but because it was the safe thing to do.
Sharansky enrolled in the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. “I dived into the republic of science,” he writes. “This world seemed insulated from the doublethink I had mastered at home.” Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War prompted him to discover his heritage. “Realizing how little I knew about this country that so many people were now asking about made me hungry to learn more.”
Sharansky studied representations of Biblical scenes hanging from the walls of Moscow’s galleries. He came across a samizdat copy of Leon Uris’s Exodus, a potboiler historical fiction that describes Israel’s founding. “It drew me into Jewish history, and Israel’s history, through my Russian roots. It helped me see myself as part of the story.”
The following year the Soviet nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov wrote his “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom.” Sakharov argued for freedom of inquiry. He demanded the protection of human rights. “Sakharov was warning that life in a dictatorship offers two choices: either you overcome your fear and stand for truth, or you remain a slave to fear, no matter how fancy your titles, no matter how big your dacha,” Sharansky writes. “Ultimately, I couldn’t escape myself or my conscience.”
Inspired by Sakharov, Sharansky applied for a visa to immigrate to Israel in 1973. He was rejected. He was unable to leave the Soviet Union. That made him a refusenik. “My life as a doublethinker, which I had consciously begun at age five the day Stalin died, was over. The professional world I had built for myself, my castle of science, collapsed instantly. Now, I could say what I thought, do what I said, and say what I did.”
The twin concerns of Sharansky’s life—identity and freedom—became fused. “Democracy—a free life in a free society—is essential because it satisfies a human yearning to choose one’s path, to pursue one’s goals,” he wrote in Defending Identity. “It broadens possibilities and provides opportunity for self-advancement. Identity, a life of commitment, is essential because it satisfies a human longing to become part of something bigger than oneself. It adds layers of meaning to our lives and deepens the human experience.” Freedom offers choice. Identity provides direction.
It would be a while before Sharansky could enjoy his own freedom. By 1975, he was working with Sakharov. The next year he formed the Moscow Helsinki Group to pressure the Soviets to live up to the commitments they had made in basket three of the Helsinki Accords. The KGB arrested him in 1977. “I spent the next nine years in prison and labor camp,” he wrote in Fear No Evil, “mainly on a special disciplinary regime, including more than 400 days in punishment cells, and more than 200 days on hunger strikes.”
In prison he played chess games in his head. “I always won.” He would tease the guards with anti-Soviet jokes. He was not afraid. What could they do—put him in jail? He communicated with his fellow inmates through morse code. They would drain the toilets and speak to one another through pipes. He read Soviet propaganda esoterically, between the lines. He figured out what was actually going on by determining what the authorities had omitted.
Sharansky was in prison when he heard that President Ronald Reagan had called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.” The year was 1983. Reagan had uttered the famous—and controversial—words in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. “It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it,” Sharansky said in a 2004 interview. “For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin’s ‘Great October Bolshevik Revolution’ and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution—Reagan’s Revolution.”
Sharansky and his wife Avital had been apart since her immigration to Israel the day after they married in 1974. Throughout his imprisonment she worked tirelessly on his behalf, and on behalf of other refuseniks and dissidents. She found an ally in Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Benjamin Netanyahu. She met with Reagan, who began asking Soviet leaders to release Sharansky. Gorbachev freed him on February 11, 1986. He was reunited with Avital in Frankfurt Airport. They flew to Israel. “‘It was just one long day,’ Avital sighed later that night, in our new home in Jerusalem. ‘I arrived in Israel in the morning. You arrived in the evening. It was just one very, very long day in between.’”
He became Natan. He entered Israeli politics. He helped resettle one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He opposed the Oslo peace accords. He resigned from Ariel Sharon’s government over the policy of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. His work as an activist was devoted to building what Reagan had described as “the infrastructure of democracy.” Sharansky distinguished between free societies and fear societies. “The structural elements that enable democratic societies to respect human rights—independent courts, the rule of law, a free press, a freely elected government, meaningful opposition parties, not to mention human rights organizations—were all glaringly absent in fear societies,” he wrote in The Case for Democracy (2004).
Sharansky’s career resists summary. It offers lessons in courage, freedom, justice, belonging, and hope. What makes his example especially relevant is his insistence that freedom and identity, liberty and tribe, are not just compatible but codependent. “To have a full, interesting, meaningful life,” he writes in Never Alone, “you have to figure out how to be connected enough to defend your freedom and free enough to protect your identity.” The same puzzle confronts nations. “Benefiting from the best of liberalism and the best of nationalism, together we can champion the joint mission to belong and to be free as both central to human happiness.”
Governments establish the conditions of liberty. But identity must come from below. The most positive and enduring sources of identity are not found in politics. They are located in civil society. The institutions of family, faith, and community tell us who we are, what we want, where we should turn.
People are antecedent to government. And they must remain so, if democracy is to survive. This is the unforgettable teaching of Natan Sharansky, hero and champion of freedom.
The Supreme Court sided with a coalition of Orthodox Jewish groups and the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Thursday in an emergency appeal that alleged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D.) COVID-related worship restrictions discriminate against Jews and violate the First Amendment.
The vote in the early Thanksgiving morning ruling was five to four, with Chief Justice John Roberts and the liberal trio in dissent. “Statements made in connection with the challenged rules can be viewed as targeting the ‘ultra-Orthodox Jewish’ community. But even if we put those comments aside, the regulations cannot be viewed as neutral because they single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment,” the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion.
Cuomo’s contested regulations establish three kinds of hotspot zones with corresponding restrictions. In red zones, where transmission is highest, church attendance is capped at 10. In less severe orange zones, that number is 25, while houses of worship in yellow zones may open at 50 percent attendance. A portion of Brooklyn and about half of Queens are currently in yellow zones.
“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in defense of the ruling.
The Thursday morning decision marks a potential turning point in a long-running legal battle over limits on worship during the pandemic. The justices turned away challenges to church attendance caps from California, Illinois, and Nevada over the summer. Those turned on whether judges should referee state and local leaders grappling with COVID. Justice Amy Coney Barrett has since replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and on Thursday she played a pivotal role, giving a fifth vote for closer scrutiny of frontline response.
Emergency appeals touching religious liberty and the pandemic have divided the justices. Chief Justice John Roberts has joined with the liberal bloc to leave house of worship regulations in place. In a brief May opinion he wrote that elected leaders, and not judges, ought to calibrate public health rules. That decision, and others which followed, drew multiple dissents from the Court’s conservatives. Justice Samuel Alito broached those controversies in a pointed speech to the Federalist Society on Nov. 12, faulting the Court for leaving Nevada’s strict limits on church attendance in place, even as its casinos are operating at 50 percent capacity.
Roberts in dissent noted the houses of worship in Thursday’s cases are now in yellow zones, even if they were once in red or orange zones. He said the Court should have stayed its hand now that the plaintiffs can open their facilities at half occupancy. He added that the plaintiffs could return to the Court if Cuomo reinstates the numerical restrictions.
“None of us are rabbis wondering whether future services will be disrupted as the High Holy Days were, or priests preparing for Christmas,” Gorsuch countered in a separate opinion.
Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group of Orthodox Jews, led Thursday’s challenge joined by two synagogues in Brooklyn and Queens. In recent weeks, many Orthodox synagogues, yeshivas, and businesses were subject to red zone regulations. The plaintiffs say Cuomo’s office rigged red zone lines to encircle separate Orthodox communities into a single red zone.
When Cuomo first issued the new restrictions, he did not include any criteria for triggering inclusion in a hotspot zone, the plaintiffs claim. That’s more evidence that the state is targeting Jewish communities, they argue. They also highlighted statements from the governor at press conferences as evidence of discrimination. Cuomo characterized a recent COVID outbreak as an “ultra-Orthodox cluster” and blamed increased transmission on Jewish religious practices.
“The governor’s repeated statements singling out the Orthodox Jewish community — matched by his clear gerrymandering to encircle primarily Orthodox communities and synagogues — are sufficient to render this order unconstitutional,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in court filings.
Lawyers for the state said that gets things exactly backwards. In legal papers, they said Cuomo’s order actually treats houses of worship more favorably than comparable secular businesses. Venues that draw large numbers of people into a closed space, like movie theaters or concert halls, are closed outright under the restrictions. But churches and synagogues can remain open, subject to certain limitations.
“Religious gatherings are treated more favorably,” New York solicitor general Barbara Underwood wrote. “They are allowed in red and orange zones, subject to size limits, even though they commonly present an outsized risk of transmitting the virus, whereas the secular activities that present similar transmission risks are banned entirely.”
The Roman Catholic diocese of Brooklyn filed a separate appeal challenging Cuomo’s restrictions for reasons other than discrimination.
The cases are No. 20A87 Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo and No. 20A90 Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo.
California’s top elections official is pushing the state to pay out a $35 million contract with a major Democratic consulting firm as he lobbies behind the scenes for a Senate seat.
California secretary of state Alex Padilla (D.), reportedly the favorite to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s Senate seat, awarded Democratic public relations giant SKDKnickerbocker the lucrative deal in August as part of a voter outreach program. Weeks later, however, Democratic state controller Betty Yee’s office refused to approve the contract, arguing that Padilla did not have the authority to pay for it.
The resolution of the dispute could be a make-or-break issue for Padilla. His victory in a fight that would send a tranche of money to some of the country’s leading Democratic strategists could ease his path to being appointed to fill Harris’s seat, a decision that Democratic governor Gavin Newsom plans to announce prior to inauguration day on Jan. 20.
SKDK has deep ties to Harris and President-elect Joe Biden. The firm’s managing director, Anita Dunn, led Biden’s presidential campaign, which has disbursed more than $2.2 million to SKDK since December 2019. Newsom did not make any payments to the firm during his runs for lieutenant governor and governor in 2014 and 2018.
According to internal emails obtained by CalMatters, Padilla has spent months fighting to pay the Biden-linked firm following Yee’s rebuke. The Democrat personally lobbied Yee to approve the payment in an Oct. 20 email, citing an August bill signed by Newsom that called on Padilla to “conduct a statewide voter education and outreach campaign.”
Padilla issued the contract on an “emergency” basis, meaning that it did not require a competitive bidding process and was not approved by relevant state agencies before it was awarded. The lack of transparency sparked criticism from Yee’s office: In a September email, chief counsel Rick Chivaro wrote that trying to get a “definitive answer” on the contract was “a little like catching a greased pig.”
SKDK may not be able to recover its expenses should Padilla fail in his attempt to fulfill the $35 million payment. The contract asserts that California can cancel the agreement “with no liability” should the state reduce funding for the program.
Padilla awarded the contract to SKDK as part of the state’s “Vote Safe California” initiative, which aimed to “educate the public on the safety, security, and ease of voting in the general election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” The program also required SKDK to give “special attention” to “reaching first-time mail voters” after Newsom decided to send every registered voter in the state a mail-in ballot.
According to a Politico report, Newsom is “leaning heavily” toward picking Padilla—a longtime ally of Newsom’s—to replace Harris. Top Democratic activists in the state, however, are urging Newsom to select a woman of color. Other reported candidates include state attorney general Xavier Becerra (D.) and Reps. Karen Bass (D.) and Barbara Lee (D.).
Bass was also floated as a potential Biden running mate but faced criticism over her role in headlining two Democratic Socialists of America conferences in 1988 and 1993. The Democrat has also praised the Church of Scientology, and she called Communist dictator Fidel Castro’s death a “great loss” to Cuba in a 2016 statement.
A frontrunner to be president-elect Joe Biden’s labor secretary oversaw the payment of nearly $1 billion in fraudulent benefits to California prison inmates.
Julie Su is the secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency, which operates the state’s pandemic unemployment system. The system paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment payments to prison inmates and convicts, prosecutors announced on Tuesday.
The fraud involved over 35,000 unemployment claims filed between March and August under the names of California state prison inmates. The inmates included two serial killers responsible for the deaths of at least eight people, as well as the well-known murderer Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 for killing his pregnant wife. The Sacramento County district attorney called the scandal “one of the biggest fraud of taxpayer dollars in California history.”
A spokeswoman for the agency’s Employment Development Department told the Washington Free Beacon the department has been working with the U.S. Labor Department to identify fraudulent claims from inmates and is “pursuing how to integrate such cross-matches moving forward as part of enhanced prevention efforts during this unprecedented time of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country.”
The agency’s logistical problems also resulted in the delay of unemployment payments for as many as 1.8 million Californians during the initial stages of the state’s shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
Su took responsibility for the agency’s logistical delays in April. She said she needed to “own the things that we are not doing right” and fix the agency’s problems. The Employment Development Department still experienced delays and fraud throughout the year, however, and faced demands from lawmakers for an audit in September.
President-elect Biden’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment on Su’s candidacy for labor secretary.
One of the district attorneys leading the task force investigating the fraud said the “vast majority” of the money will never be repaid.
California is not the only state to be plagued by unemployment fraud amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department’s inspector general said a total of $26 billion in federal aid programs could be lost to fraud by the end of the crisis.
Incoming president Joe Biden is reportedly close to selecting a vocal Israel critic to serve as his White House press secretary.
Karine Jean-Pierre, a longtime campaign adviser and incoming vice president Kamala Harris’s chief of staff, is currently the “top candidate” for the job, according to NBC News. Jean-Pierre was senior adviser and national spokeswoman for MoveOn.org, a far-left anti-Israel group that defends boycotts of the Jewish state, from April 2016 until August 2020, when she was hired as chief of staff for Harris.
Jean-Pierre has been a vocal critic of Israel, accusing the Jewish state of committing “war crimes” and, during the Democratic primary, celebrating Democrats who boycotted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. She praised those lawmakers for “boldly choosing to prioritize diplomacy and human rights over the power of a lobbying organization.”
Team Biden’s focus on Jean-Pierre is likely to rankle the pro-Israel community, which enjoyed strong support from the White House during President Donald Trump’s tenure in office. As Biden makes early staff decisions, the selection of a prominent Israel critic could signal his administration is willing to make overtures to Israel’s detractors.
MoveOn, the progressive group for which Jean-Pierre served in senior roles, launched a campaign during the Democratic primary calling on Democrats to boycott the AIPAC conference and the organization itself. “[Democratic] candidates should be prepared for push back regarding their involvement with AIPAC,” a MoveOn spokeswoman told Politico at the time. The group’s first candidate endorsements in the 2020 cycle were of the two leading anti-Israel members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.).
In a 2019 opinion article for Newsweek, Jean-Pierre said AIPAC helped the Trump administration “sabotage” the Iran nuclear deal. She claimed that AIPAC “supported the group that’s credited with inspiring President Trump to enact the Muslim Ban and has been known to spread anti-Muslim racism.” Jean-Pierre did not name the group. She attacked AIPAC for hosting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at its conference on the grounds that “under his leadership of Israel, according to the United Nations, Israel may have committed war crimes.”
AIPAC, she claimed without evidence, engages in “severely racist, Islamophobic rhetoric. … The organization has become known for trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while lifting up Islamophobic voices and attitudes.”
AIPAC, which was once a broadly bipartisan organization, has increasingly come under fire from progressives who view it as deferential to the Israeli government. While the organization was once a symbol of America’s broad support for U.S.-Israeli ties, progressives have worked to undermine its efforts and demand that Democrats boycott the group
MoveOn also defended House Democrats accused of anti-Semitism, tweeting that Democratic leaders “must stand strong in solidarity with Reps. Tlaib, Omar—stand up to Israel right-wing government for doing Trump’s racist, political dirty work.” When far-left activist Linda Sarsour was criticized for anti-Semitism, the group tweeted that she “is a leader in the fight for justice for all of us.” MoveOn also defended Angela Davis, the notorious communist activist, as a “civil rights leader” after an award was revoked over her record of anti-Semitism.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
As Washington begins to think about a post-Trump era come January, the Supreme Court will be left holding the bag, so to speak.
Even as the 45th president leaves office, the Court faces a slew of Trump-related cases, including his administration’s bid to exclude undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment of House seats, a congressional request for secret materials from the Mueller investigation, and appeals involving the president’s tax returns and Twitter account.
Chief Justice John Roberts has steered the Court through Trump-related controversies such as the administration’s push to terminate DACA and add a citizenship question to the census form. Whether he retains his commanding stature following Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation remains to be seen.
Of immediate concern for the Court is an accelerated case involving a White House directive to remove illegal aliens from the population baseline used to award House seats among the states. The justices have agreed to hear arguments in that controversy on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Census figures are due to the president by December 31, and the White House must share a final apportionment with Congress by January 10, 2021.
The stakes are high for blue states with large undocumented populations ahead of a redistricting process that will favor the GOP. The White House directive predicts California alone could lose three congressional seats if the government prevails and untold millions in federal dollars allocated by population.
A three-judge panel in New York City blocked Trump’s reapportionment order in September. The court said two federal statutes controlling the census leave no room for Trump’s policy. Those laws, the court found, require that census officials report a single set of figures to the president—namely, “the tabulation of total population by states”—and that the president must then send an apportionment scheme to Congress based solely on this tabulation.
The Trump administration counters that the plaintiffs have no basis, called standing, for challenging the directive. Even if they do, they argue federal law gives the executive branch significant discretion in administering the census.
While the justices may be able to dodge other Trump-related cases, the Court will have to resolve the reapportionment case before Trump leaves office because of the deadlines in the census laws.
Another dispute involves a House Democratic effort to obtain materials from the Mueller grand jury that are currently shielded by secrecy rules. The House Judiciary Committee told lower courts it needs that evidence to decide whether a second round of impeachment articles are necessary.
The relevant rules allow for release “in connection with a judicial proceeding.” The initial question was whether impeachment counts as such a proceeding, but Biden’s victory scrambled the legal landscape.
The House Judiciary Committee asked the justices on Tuesday to reschedule arguments in the case, now set for December 2. A lawyer for House Democrats told the justices that the committee will reevaluate its pursuit of the grand jury materials once the new Congress is seated and President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. The House did not propose an alternative argument date.
Other cases have more obvious outs for the Court.
A pressing concern for Trump himself is whether Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance can enforce a subpoena for his financial records. The High Court in July rebuffed arguments that the president is absolutely immune from state criminal process but allowed Trump to challenge Vance’s subpoena on other grounds. The Manhattan prosecutor has since prevailed in another round of litigation. Trump filed an application asking the justices to stay those victories, or put them on hold, while he prepares a formal appeal.
A fourth case asks whether First Amendment free speech protections bar the president from blocking critics on Twitter. Two lower courts said the answer is yes.
By January, Trump will be a private citizen. That’s a challenge for him because his arguments in the Vance case stem in part from his unique position as president. And in the Twitter case, a Biden DOJ could simply back out of the dispute.
“I think the Court might want to slowplay those as much as possible,” said Washington University law professor Dan Epps, who studies the Supreme Court. “I’m not sure if they will feel comfortable stalling until January but it’s definitely not impossible. I’m sure the chief would be happy to do that, but some of his more conservative colleagues may not like that approach.”
Legal papers for the Vance case and the Twitter case were submitted over a month ago. The long delay in the Vance dispute in particular could indicate that some of the justices are looking for an exit strategy, as stay requests are usually processed quickly. Holding those cases past the inauguration would be unusual but not unprecedented.