Fighting the Right

Paranoia-Rama: More Donald Trump Conspiracy Theories And The Liberal Plot 'To Enslave' America

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

Even as the GOP appears to be on the verge of nominating Donald Trump for president, it seems that not a day goes by without the candidate or his campaign promoting bizarre claims or flagrantly disregarding the truth.

5) What The Trump Campaign Considers ‘Proof’

While we would typically use this space to share conspiracy theories touted by Ted Cruz, this week we couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss a conspiracy theory about Ted Cruz.

The Texas senator, who is Trump’s strongest remaining rival in the GOP presidential race, has spent the last couple of weeks locked in a “You started it!” back-and-forth with Trump. (For the record, Trump started it).

Things escalated when Cruz accused the Trump campaign of planting a story in the National Enquirer alleging that Cruz has had extramarital affairs with several women, including former adviser Amanda Carpenter. Carpenter and Cruz have both denied the allegations.

Trump denied that his team planted the Enquirer story, while at the same time saying that “Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”

And Trump’s director of social media, Dan Scavino, was more than happy to push the allegations about Cruz’s supposed affair with Carpenter, posting a positively bizarre video involving temporary tattoos, a men’s jacket and cheese that he sees as proof of their relationship.

Given the sheer number of insane conspiracy theories embraced by Trump and his campaign, it isn’t too surprising that Scavino would publicize this insane video.

4) Donald Trump Debunked…Again

Donald Trump told CNN in February that he was most likely facing an IRS audit “because of religion” and “because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian and I feel strongly about it.”

Trump’s campaign eventually released a statement from his lawyers confirming that the GOP presidential frontrunner is being audited … but debunking Trump’s claim that the audit is an act of anti-Christian persecution.

The press release not only offers no proof that Trump is a victim of religious persecution, but explicitly debunks his argument, stating that the IRS’ scrutiny of his tax returns is “consistent with the IRS’ practice for large and complex businesses.”

But Trump will no doubt continue to claim that “Christianity is under siege” and that he is one of the foremost victims.

3) Watch Out, It’s A Pen!

The Secret Service may have denied a petition (started by a liberal satirist but apparently signed by many true believers) to allow guns into the Republican National Convention this year, but it turns out GOP may face a bigger security threat: journalists carrying pens.

After then-Breitbart news reporter Michelle Fields said that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her and bruised her arm at a campaign event, Lewandowski claimed he “never touched” Fields and Trump himself said that Fields “made up” the assault.

However, after video was released corroborating Fields’ story and a Florida police department charged Lewandowski with simple battery, the campaign changed its story.

No longer denying that the incident ever happened, the candidate and his defenders are now ludicrously arguing that Lewandowski heroically stopped Fields from getting too close to Trump, who was signing autographs and speaking with other members of the press at the time.

Trump said Fields’ pen was “very dangerous” and could’ve been a “little bomb,” and even suggested that she was the one assaulting him.

Televangelist Pat Robertson, who has praised Trump repeatedly on his “700 Club” program, similarly alleged that Fields “rushed” the candidate and “could’ve had a bomb.”

2) False Flag

Leave it to Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter, to allege that Lewandowski’s grabbing of Fields was somehow her fault and was part of “a frame job.”

“You talk about a staged event, you talk about a false flag, that’s a frame-up,” Jones said, suggesting that Fields, who at the time was working for the conservative outlet Breitbart, somehow wanted to get bruised by Lewandowski so she could manipulate “women to go basically vote for Hillary.”

1) ‘Plans To Enslave An Entire Nation’

During a recent broadcast of “Trunews,” Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America and ex-Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, discussed the supposed threat of Democracy Spring, a protest calling for money-in-politics reform, with host Rick Wiles.

Stockman called the planned protest “a threat to our national security” and “a threat to our nation’s survival,” while Pratt thought the people involved in the Democracy Spring campaign would try to “take over” the U.S.

Unfortunately, according to Pratt, members of the media are covering up this insidious plot because they “don’t want to talk about plans to overthrow a government, they don’t want to talk about plans to enslave an entire nation and yet it happens before our very eyes.”

Trump's 'Punishment' Comments Have Caught Anti-Choice Leaders Flat-Footed

Donald Trump’s recent comments — since walked back — about the need to have “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned, even though those women would be forced to “illegal places” for the procedure, caused the anti-choice movement to go into damage control as all of its carefully honed talking points were dismantled by the man who may be their presidential candidate.

And it turned out that anti-choice leaders are so used to deflecting tough questions about the results of recriminalizing abortion that, when forced to face those questions head-on, they don’t really have any good answers.

Yesterday, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List, attempted to deflect concerns about women seeking illegal abortions if Roe is overturned by claiming, unbelievably, that illegal abortion wouldn’t be a problem because desperate women would be won over by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers instead.

Then, today, Clarke Forsythe, a longtime attorney for Americans United for Life who is now apparently serving as the organization's acting president, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explaining that women need not worry because, if Roe is overturned, abortion will still be legal in many states. Those states that then want to enact abortion bans, he writes, will probably do it in a way that exempts women from prosecution:

The claim that women will be jailed for abortion when Roe is overturned rests on a second myth: that the Supreme Court's change of heart will result in the immediate re-criminalization of abortion.

But if Roe were overturned today, abortion would be legal well into the second trimester in at least 42 to 43 states tomorrow (and likely all 50 states) for the simple reason that nearly all of the state abortion prohibitions have been either repealed or are blocked by state court versions of Roe.

Extensive practical law enforcement experience in many states, over many years, is what led prosecutors not to target women. After Roe is overturned, that experience will certainly be influential with state policymakers who wish to effectively enforce abortion law.

Because we recognize that abortion is bad for both mother and child, pro-life leaders do not support the prosecution of women and will not push for such a policy when Roe is overturned. (Obviously, like Trump, any single legislator can spout their idiosyncratic ideas.)

Forsythe also argues that in states that did recriminalize abortion after the overturning of Roe, any criminal penalties on women would probably not be enforced because women who have abortions have traditionally been seen as a “victim” of “male coercion”:

Before the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade — which legalized abortion for any reason, at any time of pregnancy — state abortion laws targeted abortionists (those who performed abortions), not women.

The states understood that the point of abortion law is effective enforcement against abortionists; that the woman is the second victim of the abortionist; and that prosecuting women is counterproductive to the goal of effective enforcement of the law against abortionists.

Since time immemorial, the law has recognized that male coercion, abandonment or indifference has been at the center of most abortions.

Granted, as many as 20 state statutes technically made it a crime for the woman to participate in her own abortion. But these were not enforced.

Forsythe is one of the most thoughtful legal strategists working in the anti-abortion movement today. And the best answer he can come up with to the question of what would happen to women if Roe were to be overturned tomorrow is that abortion wouldn’t actually be recriminalized in many places and even in places where it was, lawmakers would probably spare women.

Of course, the anti-choice movement’s entire goal is to ban the procedure nationwide.

Donald Trump’s comments on abortion were terrifying. But the GOP frontrunner did a public service by exposing that, when it comes to the tough questions about banning abortion, anti-choice groups are completely unprepared.

WorldNetDaily Terrified Of The 'ObamaInternet'

One of the most dishonest smears against President Obama from conservatives in the last presidential election was that he distributed federally subsidized “Obama phones” to low-income African-Americans in order to win their votes.

These critics, however, generally failed to mention that the so-called “Obama phone” program, known as Lifeline, actually originated in the Reagan era and was expanded by the Bush administration.

Today, the conservative website WorldNetDaily responded to the news that the Federal Communications Commission just “approved a $9.25 monthly broadband subsidy to help millions of low-income households connect to the Internet” through the Lifeline program by bashing it as the “ObamaInternet.”

Should we be surprised that WorldNetDaily thinks a plan to help families gain broadband access is really a sinister Obama plot?

Religious Right Legal Leader: Of Course States Could Punish Women For Abortion

When Donald Trump said this week that, if abortion is recriminalized, women who have abortions should face “some form of punishment,” the anti-choice movement went into damage control mode and Trump quickly attempted to walk back his comments.

But not every abortion rights opponent got the memo about not touching the third rail of anti-abortion politics. Televangelist Pat Robertson, for instance, seemed genuinely perplexed by the issue, saying that while it “does seem a bit draconian” to punish women for abortion, “if somebody says abortion is murder, then what do you do to somebody who commits murder?”

Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, the Religious Right legal group founded by Robertson, similarly seemed to have not gotten the memo, explaining on his radio program yesterday that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, of course states would be free to impose punishments on women who get abortions, especially if they view embryos and fetuses as “persons” under the law. Sekulow also hinted that he might agree with such a policy for women who use abortion for “birth control.”

While the current federal ban on “partial-birth” abortion protects women from prosecution, Sekulow explained, if Roe were overturned, states would be free to impose whatever abortion penalties they wanted.

“That’s a different question from whether you legally could have statutes, if Roe v. Wade was overturned, that criminalized the abortion activity,” he said, “including anybody that voluntarily — not coercion, not life of the mother, not rape or incest, because those would all be defenses — but could a state say if a woman voluntarily had a partial-birth abortion that that act could be criminalized, could a state say that? Sure, a state could say that. And if you believe that the child’s a person, well, I’m not so sure that that’s contradictory.”

Sekulow added that “politically we always focus on the abortion provider, not the woman” but “that’s a different question than legally” so, legally, “a state could say that anybody involved in the process is committing a crime, if you believe it’s a person.”

Sekulow’s son, Jordan, a cohost of the show, noted: “We’re talking hypotheticals here, I think it’s a long road until we get to that point where those kind of abortion laws would be potentially in place.”

“There’s a political question whether they should be,” Sekulow responded, “I think that’s a legitimate point. But the legal issue is not improbable.”

Later in the program, the Sekulows and their cohost, ACLJ government affairs director Nathanael Bennett, took a call from a listener who said that Trump’s comments were encouraging to her because while she doubted that the candidate was truly against abortion rights, the comments show “at least he’s thinking pro-life and would be willing to take that stance.”

Sekulow responded by repeating his point that Trump was not “legally incorrect” in saying there could be punishments for women if abortion becomes illegal.

“If we believe the child is a person,” he said, “in other words, the personhood of the child, that should be protected under the Constitution, that someone that knowingly, willfully and voluntarily takes the life of that person could be — not should be, could be — held culpable under criminal laws of the various states, that would not be illegal or extraconstitutional.”

“Now, I’m not saying that’s the right policy,” he added, “because a lot of us view that women are forced into coerced situations, but the reality is — and let me just drop a hypothetical, a woman’s having her third — and this happens — third partial-birth abortion, partial-birth abortion’s illegal and the state of California says, ‘You know what, anybody that participates in a partial-birth abortion, unless it’s the life of the mother, rape or incest, is a culpable criminal.’ That’s not illegal. A state could do that. I’m not saying that’s the right political decision, I’m not even saying that’s the right moral decision. I’m saying legally, was what Trump was saying legally incorrect? No, it wasn’t legally incorrect. Politically he had to take it back, but legally it was not incorrect.”

Jordan Sekulow and Bennett said that while they had seen some “positive” responses to Trump’s comments from their conservative audience members, including one who wrote in to say she had a “new respect for Donald Trump,” the comments would become a political liability for him in the general election.

Bennett said Trump’s comments had given him “some heartburn” because “we want to win hearts and minds on this.”

“You want to know why it gives you heartburn?” Sekulow demanded. “You want to know why it gives everybody heartburn? I’m going to say it and this is going to be controversial. You know why it really gives everybody heartburn? Here’s the real reason, and some of you are going to really disagree with this: because a lot of people really don’t believe the unborn child is a person.”

He then went on to suggest that he does believe that “the unborn child is a person” and thus might be open to punishments for women who use abortion as “birth control.”

“Because if you really believe,” he said, “that the unborn child’s a person — and as I’ve looked at my grandchildren’s ultrasounds — you would say, if somebody voluntarily did this for the purposes of birth control —which is generally what it is, is an inconvenience, not medically necessary, not life of the mother, not incest or rape — you think to yourself, if it’s really a person, what’s so, what’s so — but we aren’t there yet politically and we’re not there maybe even legally or morally, and that may be shame on us in one sense.

“I’m not saying it would be the right policy, by the way, to do this, because I believe politics are the art of the possible and I agree, Than, we want to win hearts and minds. But the problem is, if you really logically look at this, the fact of the matter is, if it’s a person for goodness sake, and I believe it is, the rules would be different. For any other person that somebody killed, they’d be held culpable, either as the primary person or the accessory to the crime. So this is not, it’s not craziness what’s being said here, and I think that’s why on social media you’re seeing kind of a mixed reaction.”

Just in case the audience didn’t get the point, the Sekulows returned to the point later in the program, as Jay insisted that “the kerfuffle that Donald Trump’s in” is because “he’s not familiar enough with the language or the nuance” of the anti-abortion movement, not because he’s “legally wrong.”

Jordan added that the anti-choice movement’s opposition to legal punishment for women is indeed a “policy position” and not necessarily the legal result of banning abortion. “On the legal side of it, though, you see why the reason would be, if you make something illegal then you could punish, and so ultimately that would be up to the policymakers to decide,” he said.

Bryan Fischer: Woman Who Have Abortions Should Not Be Punished Because They Don't Know Any Better

On his radio show yesterday, Bryan Fischer took a call from a listener who didn't understand the outcry over Donald Trump's assertion that abortion should be outlawed and any woman who has an abortion should be punished, pointing out that if you are going to equate abortion with murder, then it makes no sense to say that women should not be held criminally responsible for their actions.

Fischer did his best to explain that this is not a position that most anti-choice groups and activists publicly advocate on the grounds that women who have abortions simply do not know what they are doing and therefore should not be held culpable. 

Fischer hopes that once abortion is completely outlawed and we "get the culture to the place where everybody understands that it's a baby," then the government could begin to impose legal penalties upon women who have abortions. But as it stands now, Fischer declared, women simply "do not realize how morally culpable they are" when they have an abortion and so they should not be punished.

"They didn't know better," Fischer said. "Nobody told them, nobody tried to talk them out of it, nobody explained the humanity of the baby in the womb, so they did not know what they were doing."

"I realize from a purist standpoint, there should be legal culpability for a woman," he later admitted. "Maybe some day we can get to that place where that would be accepted and we would actually be able to enact legislation like that."

Courting Extremism: Donald Trump's Supreme Court And Chuck Grassley's Revisionist History

Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.

Donald Trump, currently the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, believes that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president who isn’t a natural born citizen. So it’s only natural that Senate Republicans, having apparently decided that Obama’s second term in office only lasted for three years, seem intent on letting a future President Trump pick the next Supreme Court justice.

Not only would delaying a Supreme Court confirmation until the next president takes office leave the court short one justice for about a year, it could let Trump set the direction of the court for decades to come.

Conservative activists have pressured Republican leaders into taking an extreme stance that is opposed by a majority of voters, a stance so ridiculous that it even requires some Republicans to ignore their past statements on the judiciary.

Here are the five worst pro-obstruction arguments, blatant changes of heart and accidental admissions of truth that conservatives have made about the Supreme Court this week:

5) ‘Let’s Do Our Jobs’

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has been feeling the heat over his support for the GOP’s Supreme Court blockade. In fact, his staff even went so far as to keep details of his public meetings with constituents a secret in order to avoid protests over the matter.

Perhaps Grassley would rather not talk to his constituents about why he thinks the Senate shouldn’t even hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination because back in 2005 he was making exactly the opposite argument, telling his colleagues in a Senate floor speech about judicial nominees: “Let’s do our jobs.”

4) The Judicial C̶o̶n̶f̶i̶r̶m̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ Crisis Network

It’s hard not to roll your eyes when the Judicial Crisis Network demands that Senate Republicans ratchet up their unprecedented obstruction of Garland and other judicial nominees when one remembers that prior to President Obama’s swearing-in, the group was called the Judicial Confirmation Network. Indeed, JCN was created for the sole purpose of encouraging the Senate to confirm President Bush’s nominees, especially his most extreme and controversial ones.

Now JCN is targeting Garland, a man JCN’s own leader implied in 2010 would make a suitable replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens.

“But of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland,” JCN chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino said at the time. “He’s the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer.”

Not only is Severino trying to reverse herself on Garland, but she is even trying to alter the history of her own group.

In a March interview, Pennsylvania radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh spoke with Severino about the JCN and hailed her organization for its work confirming judicial nominees during the Bush administration.

When Walsh incorrectly claimed that the group was called the Judicial Crisis Network at the time — suggesting that it was formed to fight Senate Democrats who were supposedly bent on creating a “crisis” in the courts — Severino chose to let Walsh’s false claim stand and went on to attack Democrats for trying to “repeat false facts over and over again.”

3) NRA’s Lawyer Problem

The NRA has been one of the most vocal opponents of Garland’s nomination, and has even pushed outright falsehoods in hopes of blocking his nomination. The group has insisted that Garland ruled against gun activists in the landmark Heller case and supported a national gun registry. Both claims are completely false, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives like Bill O’Reilly and Larry Pratt from running with the bogus talking points.

But at least one NRA leader didn’t get the memo.

Timothy Johnson of Media Matters points out that one of the organization’s top lawyers lavished praise on Garland, although he toed the Senate GOP’s line that no nominee for the high court should be considered until after a new president takes office.

The NRA's dishonest and fiery rhetoric on Garland is at odds with the views of one of the organization's top constitutional litigators, conservative lawyer Charles J. Cooper.

Cooper, "a longtime stalwart of the Federalist Society" who often represents the NRA and other conservative interests in his private appellate litigation practice, praised Garland in a March 28 interview, saying his respect for Garland has only grown since he supported Garland's nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 1997.

In a 1997 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cooper noted that his legal philosophy differed from Garland's, but also wrote, "Not only is Merrick enormously gifted intellectually, but he is thoughtful as well, for he respects other points of view and fairly and honestly assesses the merits of all sides of an issue," and that should he be confirmed, "He would comport himself on the bench with dignity and fairness."

Asked about the letter by The Washington Post, Cooper said his "high opinion of Judge Garland has not changed -- indeed, it has only strengthened -- over the course of the 19 years since I wrote these words." (Cooper, however, does support Senate Republicans in obstructing Garland's nomination for political reasons.)

Among the cases Cooper was involved in? The Heller case, the very one that the NRA is citing in its false attacks against Garland.

2) Looming Dictatorship

Rafael Cruz, the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and one of his top campaign surrogates, raised the issue of gun rights in an interview on Monday, warning that with “one more liberal justice” will lead Americans to “lose our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

Not only would Americans be stripped of their gun rights if a “liberal justice” were to be appointed to the court, Cruz warned, but America could transform into an authoritarian state: “[T]hink back in history: Every dictator that has taken the guns away from the population has used them against the population.”

1) The Trump Court

While Donald Trump may have struggled with knowing exactly what the Supreme Court does or what the right to privacy has to do with abortion rights, he has been clear that he has wanted to outlaw abortion ever since a friend who had contemplated terminating a pregnancy ended up raising a “super star” kid.

On Wednesday, Trump went on to take three different positions on abortion rights in three hours, and it remains unclear exactly what he believes.

But what Trump has made clear is that he plans to appoint to the Supreme Court only ultraconservative jurists in the mold of Antonin Scalia, ones who would likely support overturning Roe v. Wade and uphold state efforts to curtail abortion rights. He even said he would pick a justice from list of potential nominees issued by the Heritage Foundation, an anti-choice group led by Jim DeMint, who was “one of the most die-hard anti-choice lawmakers” during his time in the Senate. (The organization has since released a list of their conservative dream justices).

While Trump has reversed his position on whether women who have abortions should be punished, a Supreme Court shaped by Trump could make such a prospect a reality.

Glenn Beck Envisions President Ted Cruz's White House Literally 'Running The Senate As Well'

Glenn Beck took questions from a studio audience on his television show last night, where he was asked how Ted Cruz, if elected president, would enact his agenda amid the gridlock in Washington, D.C.

Beck laid out a scenario in which Cruz, being so well-versed in the Constitution, literally places his own vice president in charge of controlling the Senate.

The Constitution says that "the Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided," and Beck envisioned President Cruz exploiting that by tapping a "pit bull" like Carly Fiorina to serve as his vice president, tasking her with controlling the Senate in order to get it to do his bidding.

"If you're smart and you want to get things done," Beck said, "you partner with your vice president and you say, 'Go run the Senate.' And then the vice president then walks up to, let's say, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and taps him on the shoulder and says, 'Excuse me, Mitch. You're in my chair.' And now the White House is running the Senate as well. That's how you get things done."

"Whether that will happen, I don't know," Beck said with a smirk, "but I do know that Ted Cruz is a constitutionalist and he's a historian. I know there's many things that have been forgotten that have stopped this gridlock in the past."

Needless to say, if President Obama and Vice President Biden were to try something like this, Beck would have a total aneurysm and immediately begin screaming for impeachment.

EAC Official Who Helped Make Voting Harder Linked To Voter Suppression Architect Kris Kobach

The AP reports today that Brian Newby, the Election Assistance Commission executive director who in February singlehandedly helped Kansas, Georgia and Alabama make it harder to vote using federal voter registration forms, was placed in his job in part thanks to the efforts of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of voter suppression measures throughout the country.

In 2011, Kobach helped push through a law in his state requiring people registering to vote to present one of a narrow list of “proof of citizenship” documents, which led tens of thousands of Kansans to have their voter registrations suspended when they tried to sign up to vote in last year’s elections. Kobach was locked in a years-long battled with the EAC over federal voter registration forms, which did not require voters to present the same proof of citizenship, even attempting to create a two-tiered voting system in which people who registered with the federal form were barred from voting in state and local elections. Then, in February, Newby decided that people registering with the federal voter registration form in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama would have to present extra proof of citizenship, handing a major win to Kobach.

So, it is not entirely surprising to learn that it is Kobach who helped Newby to get his job at the EAC:

An email provided to The Associated Press through open records requests offers a glimpse into the mindset of Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who decided — without public comment or approval from bosses — that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a national form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship.

As a finalist for the job of executive director, Newby said in a June email to his benefactor, Kansas' Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that he was friends with two of the commissioners at the federal agency, and told Kobach: "I think I would enter the job empowered to lead the way I want to."

Documents obtained by AP show Newby's ties to Kobach, the architect of voter ID and other restrictive voter registration laws around the nation that he says are needed to prevent voter fraud. Critics say there is very little voter fraud and Kobach's measures hurt voter registration and deprive eligible voters of the right to vote.

Kobach had appointed Newby to be a county elections commissioner in Kansas, and helped him get the federal job that he took in November.

"I wanted you in the loop, in part because of other issues in the past with the EAC," Newby emailed Kobach. "I also don't want you thinking that you can't count on me in an upcoming period that will tax our resources."

Newby declined to comment for this story about the email, referring questions to a commission spokesman, Bryan Whitener, who declined comment. Newby was hired by the three sitting commissioners.

Kobach said Wednesday that he spoke to one, and possibly two of the Republican commissioners, about Newby prior to his hiring.

"I told that person I thought Newby would be excellent and he was one of Kansas' most talented county election officers and indeed one of the most talented election officers in country," Kobach said.

But documents from open records requests and interviews by AP show that as early as April 2015 and continuing in the months leading to Newby's hiring by the commission, Kobach and his staff met with county officials to discuss concerns about Newby's job performance in Kansas. Those concerns led officials to call for an audit of the Johnson County election office Newby led.

Kobach told AP he never informed the federal commissioners about those problems, and insisted they would not have affected Newby's performance at his federal job.

The audit released earlier this month found Newby intentionally skirted oversight of government credit card expenses, wasted taxpayer funds and improperly claimed mileage and travel expenses while at his former job in Kansas. Newby has called the audit inaccurate and misleading.

Ted Cruz 'Inspired' By Scott Walker’s Union-Busting

Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the endorsement of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week in the lead-up to the state’s Republican presidential primary, told a Wisconsin radio host yesterday that he was “inspired” by Walker’s notorious stand against unions in his state.

In 2011, Walker signed legislation stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, survived a recall election, and came back to severely weaken private-sector unions as well. The right-wing celebrity that this brought Walker was not enough, however, to win him the Republican presidential nomination, although he did say that battling union members had prepared him to fight ISIS.

In an interview with Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes yesterday, Cruz expressed his support for so-called “right-to-work” laws that are designed to weaken unions and said that Walker’s battle with union members had “inspired” him.

“Absolutely, I think right to work, it’s a fundamental right,” Cruz said, “and I think we need to have government that sides with the working men and women of this country rather than with special interests, rather than with union bosses.”

He added that “when Gov. Scott Walker and millions of men and women across Wisconsin stood up and took on the union bosses, it was powerful, it inspired people across the country, it inspired me.”

He told Sykes that “what y’all have done in the state of Wisconsin is exactly what we need to do in Washington, is we need a president who stands with the working men and women of this country against the special interests and lobbyists in Washington. “

Far-Right Pundit: Muslim-Americans Will Soon Have The Right To Murder, Rape And Kill As They Please

Erik Rush, the WorldNetDaily columnist who once advocated for killing all Muslims, is out with a new column today predicting that in the years to come, Muslims in America will win the right to kill, kidnap and rape other Americans.

To make his case, he cites an incident in 2014, which he falsely claims took place “last week,” in which a Muslim attorney asked his Facebook friends whether it was appropriate for a public school to advertise an Easter egg hunt to students because it was held at a church, noting that Islamic centers could then “promote Muslim holidays” to all public school students. Naturally, the conservative media used the incident to wrongly claim that a wave of Muslim parents were complaining about an Easter egg hunt. (Rush also claims that there is a conspiracy to suppress the story).

Rush concludes that this exaggerated incident will pave the way for future horrors: “Well, that’s how it starts. Give it a decade or two, and Muslims in America will have earned the right to Shariah courts, to rape non-Muslim women at will, to kidnap non-Muslim children for use as sex slaves and to behead American servicemen in broad daylight, just as they have in Britain, Europe and Scandinavia.”

I’ve always had a great respect for the Catholic Church, and I understand the reality of modern popes being political as much as spiritual leaders, but I am about a hair’s breadth away from declaring this pontiff an apostate Christian. In both his Christmas and Easter addresses, Pope Francis excoriated those who wish to prevent migrants from the Middle East and North Africa from entering Europe, even as they run roughshod over the nations of that continent. He has paid gratuitous, embarrassing deference to the world’s smirking, treacherous Muslim leaders, and although the pope has condemned the recent persecution (rape, maiming, murder, enslavement, etc.) of Christians in the Middle East by Muslims, he has spent just as much time misrepresenting Islam as benign as his contemporary political leaders have.

So is this pope stupid, naïve, or evil?

Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that Muslim parents of elementary school students in Dearborn, Michigan, became upset after their children received flyers promoting an Easter egg hunt at a local church. While attending public elementary schools in New York during the 1960s, I cannot count the number of handouts I received for events celebrating religious holidays that my family did not celebrate. No one got intimidated, no one got offended, and no one went crying to the New York Times.

But you see, Muslims have made significant inroads into politics in Michigan, so they can afford to be uppity in that state. They’ve also become savvy to the practices employed by every other special-interest group in the American left’s big tent: Claim persecution, gain sympathy, secure genuinely unconstitutional protections under the law, and then you’re free to persecute your political opponents.

So, the poor, intimidated little Muslim parents went to the press, complaining that their childrens’ virgin eyes falling upon these horrid, blasphemous Easter flyers was somehow a form of religious persecution that naturally violates the Constitution.

Clever, aren’t they? Well, that’s how it starts. Give it a decade or two, and Muslims in America will have earned the right to Shariah courts, to rape non-Muslim women at will, to kidnap non-Muslim children for use as sex slaves and to behead American servicemen in broad daylight, just as they have in Britain, Europe and Scandinavia.

For the record: Although a link to the Detroit Free Press story now defaults to the publication’s home page for some unfathomable reason, other online news outlets did pick it up.

Sharon Slater: Sex Ed Is Planned Parenthood Plot To Make Money Off HIV Treatments & Condoms

Sharon Slater, the head of Family Watch International, which works to promote social conservative policies at the UN, recently released a documentary called “The War on Children: The Comprehensive Sexuality Education Agenda.” Slater joined “The Drew Mariani Show” on the Catholic radio network Relevant Radio on Tuesday to discuss it, explaining to listeners that sex ed in schools is a plot by Planned Parenthood to “sexualize children” so that they’ll eventually come back for contraception, abortion and STD treatments.

“What this means,” she said, “is that a business that makes money off of sexualizing children — because if they can sexualize children through the school system through their programs, they can provide them with sexual counseling, condoms, abortions, contraception, STD treatment, HIV treatment, etc., etc. — they’re making lots of money off of sexualizing children. So, they’re getting it into the classroom all across the United States and in countries all around the world.”

Mariani warned that it is indeed “deviant” to “have a five-year-old being taught what adults do,” especially since you “can change the direction of a child and their own appetites and things along those lines at that age.”

“What most people don’t understand,” Slater said later in the interview, “is that there is an intentional, targeted effort to get to your children and change the way they think about sexuality, to encourage them to engage in sexual activity, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual or self-stimulation, because if they can recruit children into this worldview and this sexual ideology, then they’ll have the future, if they can train up the next generation in all these radical ideas. And that’s what they’re after. In fact, even Hitler said, ‘He who owns the minds of the children owns the future.’”

This is why parents, she said, need to “make sure this is not in your school.”

Pat Robertson Stumped On Abortion Punishment: 'What Do You Do To Somebody Who Commits Murder?'

Reacting to Donald Trump’s since-reversed assertion that women who have abortions should be punished if the procedure is outlawed, Pat Robertson seemed hesitant to rebuke the billionaire mogul. If abortion is murder, the televangelist said today, then it only makes sense to reach Trump’s conclusion.

“You know, it’s interesting, what Trump says, it shocks people, but at the same time the old adage was that abortion is illegal, that is was murder, and consequently if it’s illegal and it’s murder then there had to be some penalty attached to it,” he said.

Robertson added that many anti-choice activists now say that the law “should punish the provider who does the abortion, not the woman who is having it, which sounds more reasonable. In any event, if somebody says abortion is murder, then what do you do to somebody who commits murder? It’s a dilemma that people have been wrestling with and I’m certainly not going to get into it. But that does seem a bit draconian, but at the same time we’ve slaughtered close to 50 million unborn babies in America since Roe v. Wade.”

Anti-Choice Leader Offers Dubious Strategy For Preventing Back-Alley Abortions

Leaders of the anti-abortion movement were not pleased with Donald Trump’s comment yesterday that if abortion is recriminalized, there would have to be “some form of punishment” for women who illegally seek the procedure. The movement has spent years building a narrative that restrictions on abortion are meant to protect women, something that Trump managed to blow up with one comment.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the leader of the anti-abortion campaign group Susan B. Anthony List, went on NPR this morning in an effort to do damage control, telling “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep that “the pro-life movement has never, for very good reason, promoted the idea that we punish women.”

“The aims of the pro-life movement are focused on the woman and the child,” she said, “and to take them together as a goal, as an end, is to preserve both, is what it’s been from the beginning.”

When Inskeep asked Dannenfelser about Trump’s comment that this plan to ban abortion would send women back to “illegal places” for the procedure, Dannenfelser said that Trump doesn’t know “about what is ready and where we are prepared for rolling back abortion laws.”

If abortion were to be banned nationwide, Dannenfelser claimed, women in desperate situations would turn to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers rather than the back alley.

Such centers are typically staffed by volunteers, not medical professionals, and many have been found to give misinformation to women.

“As you know, abortion laws are nonexistent pretty much up to the birth of the child,” she claimed. “If those children are allowed to live and a woman is in need of help, there are hundreds of pregnancy care centers across the country, millions of people ready to come to her aid. So, no, I don’t believe that that’s necessary at all, and we’re far more ready now than we were before Roe to help women in situations like that.”

Inskeep asked if dangerous back alley abortions wouldn’t still be the “reality” in “some cases.”

“If a woman feels that that is where she’s been driven, she hasn’t been reached by someone who says, ‘I will help you,’” Dannenfelser insisted. “There’s always a dreadful possibility that something terrible would happen, no matter what a law is, but is incumbent upon the pro-life movement and Americans in general to help a woman who is in that type of need.”

Dannenfelser, who supports banning all abortion with no exceptions, can’t seriously believe that crisis pregnancy centers armed with anti-abortion activists would solve the problem of dangerous illegal abortions. Before Roe, when states had a patchwork of abortion laws, women with resources could often obtain a safe hospital abortion, while too many women without money and connections turned to self-induced abortions or illegal providers. According to a Guttmacher report:

While the problem of unintended pregnancy spanned all strata of society, the choices available to women varied before Roe. At best, these choices could be demeaning and humiliating, and at worst, they could lead to injury and death. Women with financial means had some, albeit very limited, recourse to a legal abortion; less affluent women, who disproportionately were young and members of minority groups, had few options aside from a dangerous illegal procedure.

For The Fifth Time, David Barton Falsely Claims The Average Family On Welfare Receives $61,000 A Year In Benefits

Last week we noted how right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton continues to insist that the average family on welfare receives $61,000 worth of benefits a year despite the fact that this claim is entirely false.

We have heard Barton make this claim four times before and, while appearing on the "License to Parent" podcast earlier this week, he repeated it again.

"Last year, we had 60 anti-poverty programs in government," he stated. "Government averaged spending $61,000 per poor family last year. Right now, if you're on welfare — and there is no work requirement for welfare — if you're on welfare right now, you make more than teachers do in 13 states and more that secretaries do in 39 states and that's not working a single step."

As we have pointed out every time we have heard Barton make this assertion, this entirely misleading claim was first put forth by the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee back in 2012 and was, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, derived by relying on "a series of serious manipulations of the data that violate basic analytic standards and are used to produce a potentially inflammatory result."

Even the Weekly Standard recognized this when it stated that "not all households living below the poverty line receive $61,194 worth of assistance per year":

New data compiled by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee shows that, last year, the United States spent over $60,000 to support welfare programs per each household that is in poverty. The calculations are based on data from the Census, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congressional Research Services.

"According to the Census’s American Community Survey, the number of households with incomes below the poverty line in 2011 was 16,807,795," the Senate Budget Committee notes. "If you divide total federal and state spending by the number of households with incomes below the poverty line, the average spending per household in poverty was $61,194 in 2011."

This dollar figure is almost three times the amount the average household on poverty lives on per year. "If the spending on these programs were converted into cash, and distributed exclusively to the nation’s households below the poverty line, this cash amount would be over 2.5 times the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, which in 2011 was $22,350 (see table in this link)," the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee note.

To be clear, not all households living below the poverty line receive $61,194 worth of assistance per year. After all, many above the poverty line also receive benefits from social welfare programs (e.g. pell grants).

Barton simply doesn't seem to care that this claim that he makes regularly is misleading and untrue, which is why he continues to make it. 

Donald Trump's America: Bring Back The Back-Alley Abortion

Donald Trump stoked outrage yesterday when he said that if he were to be successful in making abortion illegal there would have to be “some form of punishment” for women obtain the procedure.

A campaign spokesman then said that it would be up to the states to determine what form of punishment women should receive and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., vigorously defended his father’s comments.

As the outcry continued, Trump’s campaign released a statement from the candidate saying that he only believes the abortion provider, and not the woman, should face punishment for abortion, since the woman is “a victim in the case.” Absurdly, Trump said in the statement that “my position has not changed,” even though it was a reversal of what he had said just hours earlier.

It wasn’t the first time Trump has changed his views on abortion rights: While he said in the 1990s that he was “pro-choice in every respect,” he now says he changed his mind after a friend who was considering an abortion ended up having a “total superstar” kid.

While Trump was offering his vague, evasive and since-contradicted answer on whether he thinks women should face punishment, he also acknowledged that if abortion is banned women would to “go to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places.”

Just as women in parts of the U.S. today are already being punished for having abortions, some women are also going “to illegal places,” as Trump put it, as a result of laws curtailing access to abortion care. Rather than decrease the abortion rate, time and time again anti-abortion laws simply just make women turn to dangerous means.

As Mother Jones notes, unsafe abortions have been on the rise in Texas after state lawmakers passed a number of laws restricting access:

A new study quantifies some of those fears: At least 100,000 Texas women—and as many as 240,000—between the ages of 18 and 49 have attempted to self-induce abortions, according to a report released today by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP). The study also found that it is possible that the rate of women attempting to self-induce abortions is rising in Texas as a result of the state's additional restrictions on abortion care. The report points to previous studies that have explored the correlation between a rise in abortion restrictions and the prevalence of self-induced abortions. A 2008 national study found that about 2 percent of women reported that they tried to terminate pregnancies on their own. In 2012, a year after Texas passed several new abortion restrictions, a study of Texas women seeking care at an abortion clinic found that about 7 percent reported attempting to end their pregnancies without medical assistance before seeking clinic care.



The study identifies two populations where histories of self-induced abortion were most prevalent: Latina women living in a county that borders Mexico—a more rural area of the state that has seen several clinic closures—and women who reported difficulty gaining access to reproductive health care in the past.

The study also determined that the two broad categories of methods used by women to end their pregnancies were home remedies such as herbs, teas, vitamins, or medications—primarily misoprostol—obtained in Mexico without a prescription by women traveling there.

Indeed, women in Texas have sought drugs in Mexico that can cause miscarriages and which, according to one expert, “can cause serious bleeding or a partial birth abortion” if taken without medical guidance.

Latin America, where several countries have enacted anti-abortion laws in recent years, is experiencing a high rate of unsafe abortions:

Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest regional rate of unsafe abortions (pdf) per capita in the world at 31 per 1,000 women, aged 15 to 44. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are about 4.2m unsafe abortions each year in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality in Latin America. The WHO, which calls unsafe abortion a "persistent, preventable pandemic", estimates that in 2008, 12% of all maternal deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean were caused by abortions. Many other women die as a result of complications stemming from unsafe abortions such as septic shock or perforation of internal organs.

If Donald Trump gets his way, women will still be punished for his anti-abortion views, no matter what he now says.

Heritage List Gives Glimpse Of Far-Right Justices Sought By Trump And Cruz

One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.

Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.

Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.

In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:

… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”

Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.

Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.

Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”

Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.

Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:

Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.

Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.

Donald Trump's Lawyers Debunk Donald Trump

Back in February, Donald Trump took the right-wing conspiracy theories that Christians in America are enduring severe persecution and that the Obama administration is using the IRS to target conservatives, and placed himself in the center of both, humbly declaring that he was facing an IRS audit “because of the fact I’m a strong Christian.”

Trump has said that he will not make his tax returns public because of the ongoing audit, a claim that tax experts have questioned.

Trump’s campaign shed some light on the issue yesterday when it released a letter from his lawyers confirming that the candidate is being audited.  But, at the same time, it undermined Trump’s claim that he is facing specific targeting for his well-known Christian beliefs:

As the political press focused on Donald Trump’s contradictory statements about abortion Wednesday, his campaign quietly released an unusual letter from his tax lawyers claiming the businessman has been under “continuous examination” by the IRS since 2002.



Trump’s tax returns have been under “continuous examination” by the IRS since 2002, “consistent with the IRS’ practice for large and complex businesses,” the lawyers wrote.

Seeing that the lawyers called the audits “consistent with the IRS’ practice for large and complex businesses,” we are not sure how Trump can continue to say with a straight face that the audit is actually an act of anti-Christian persecution.

Not that that will stop him continuing to repeat a claim that his own campaign has debunked.

Theodore Shoebat: 'Sluts' Who Have Abortions Should Be Put To Death

Extremist right-wing activist and Donald Trump supporter Theodore Shoebat posted a video last night praising Trump's short-lived call to punish women who have abortions, declaring that "sluts" who have abortions should be put to death.

"You pro-life bastards!" Shoebat screamed at the anti-choice groups who criticized Trump's initial position. "You are useless scum. Bastards. Pigs. Swine. Lower than the devils that you claim to be fighting against because you do not follow the law of God."

Shoebat, who was recently featured in Janet Porter's anti-gay documentary "Light Wins" along with several Republican presidential candidates, members of Congress and leading anti-gay activists, then cited Leviticus as he declared that "all these sluts who kill their own children" should be put to death.

"They had a choice to keep their legs closed," he stated. "They could have controlled themselves, and they got the abortions and they murdered their own children. Let me tell you something, I believe in the death penalty for these women and I believe that God himself agrees with me."

Anti-Choice Activist Dave Daubenmire Says 'Of Course A Woman Should Be Punished' For Having An Abortion

Right-wing activist "Coach" Dave Daubenmire posted a short video today praising Donald Trump for saying that abortion should be outlawed and that woman who have abortions should be punished.

Though Trump quickly backtracked on the latter point, Daubenmire, who regularly leads protests outside of Planned Parenthood facilities in his native Ohio, praised the billionaire mogul for being "the most pro-life candidate running for president."

"Donald Trump said a woman, if she kills her baby, ought to pay a price," Daubenmire said. "If the dad takes a gun and shoots the unborn child, don't they charge him with murder? [Ted] Cruz and [John] Kasich, they just want to charge the doctor. Well, the woman is the one most responsible! She's the one hiring the doctor to kill the baby! Friends, when we have laws without punishment, our laws are merely suggestions. Of course a woman should be punished when killing her baby! Of course she should. Donald Trump is the most pro-life candidate of them all."

Gohmert: Supreme Court Tried To Play God In Gay Marriage Ruling

Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, sat in for Tony Perkins on the “Washington Watch” radio program, where he chatted with conservative attorney Ken Klukowski about the supposed attacks on religious freedom in the U.S.

After warning that liberals are trying to stop Christians from practicing their faith openly in America, he repeated his claim that the Supreme Court justices declared themselves God when they handed down last year’s marriage equality ruling:

Last summer, the Supreme Court in the same-sex marriage case did what they have been building towards since the 1960s, for over 50 years. You take away God from the schools, prayer from the schools, the Bible from the schools; God, the Bible, things where we talk about God or Jesus in an open forum that’s in the public sector. And last summer five justices basically said, ‘Forget what God said according to the Bible, forget what Moses said, God said, forget what Jesus said when he quoted Moses verbatim and said ‘this is what marriage is.’ Basically, to my mind, they were ruling, ‘The five of us, we five Supremes, are now your God.’”

The congressman went on to suggest that the government now believes that it can compel churches to “fund abortion” and seeks to “force churches to do whatever they tell them.”

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