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A Conservative Judge Tells the January 6 Committee How to Trump-Proof the 2024 Election

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A Conservative Judge Tells the January 6 Committee How to Trump-Proof the 2024 Election

Thursday afternoon’s January 6 committee hearing—the third session over the past week—included revelations and made-for-TV moments. There was the disclosure that John Eastman, the lawyer providing faux intellectual heft to Donald Trump’s scheme to convince Mike Pence to overturn the election, had asked the president for a preemptive pardon. The committee revealed that an unnamed Proud Boys witness has confessed that members of the extremist group intended to assassinate Pence—which, was particularly, frightening since Trump’s vice president was within 40 feet of the insurrectionists when Secret Service agents scurried him into a secure location. Ivanka Trump, in a pre-taped deposition, recounted Trump’s last phone conversation browbeating Pence before Congress met on January 6, Nicholas Luna, a presidential aide who was also in the room during the call, told of Trump telling Pence, “You are a wimp. You will be a wimp.”

But the lasting point of the hearing came with the monotone of J. Michael Luttig, a retired judge and conservative legal icon, who was about the most exasperating friendly witness at a high-profile congressional hearing in memory. Luttig reacted to every question with a long pause for serious contemplation, before slowly responding word-by-word, mentally editing as he went , as if each answer would be treated as binding legal precedent. Yet there was emotional power in the gravity of Luttig’s words. The conservative jurist believes that not only was electoral democracy in peril after the 2020 election, but the specter is looming over 2024.

At the core of Luttig’s argument, although it was not precisely spelled out, is the failure of Congress to update the vague and self-contradictory Electoral Count Act of 1887. This is the legislation that Trump and Eastman leaned on to make their case to Pence. As Luttig put it, with a rare dollop of energy in his words, “I would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the vice president overturn the 2020 election on the basis of … historical precedent.”

In his closing remarks, Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, said, “We will be reviewing the views shared by Judge Luttig and other expects on potential improvements to the Electoral Count Act among a range of other initiatives.” The implication from Thompson is that amending the Electoral Count Act would be part of the committee’s final report, scheduled to be delivered no earlier than September.

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But September would be dangerously late to begin the legislative process of reform. As the leaves turn in an election year, Congress invariably rushes to get out of Washington leaving any ambitious legislation on the cutting room floor. And then, if the Republicans, as expected based on polls and portents, win back the House in November, any legislative changes to the Electoral Count Act would be at the mercy of would-be House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Given McCarthy’s complicity in Trump’s “stolen election” craziness, he is not exactly the ally needed for fair-minded reform.

Unmentioned in the hearings was the apparent recent progress made by a bipartisan group of senators eager to rewrite this flawed law. Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said last week, “We had an excellent meeting … where we resolved almost all the issues.” While many of the details remain murky, the proposed rewrite of the Electoral Count Act would underscore that the vice president’s role in counting ballots is entirely ceremonial. And, equally important, it would raise the bar to challenge a state’s electoral votes from just one member in each chamber to 20 percent of both the House and Senate.

The danger is that Congress will proceed with its traditional lassitude since the Electoral Count Act will not become relevant again until January 6, 2025. But delay would be tragic at a time when democracy—as Luttig stressed—is in peril. Any legislation this year probably requires a Senate compromise bill to hit the floor by the beginning of September at the latest. Also, like with guns, left-wing House Democrats would have to accept what is legislatively possible rather than demanding that the revision of the ECA also include voting rights protections that would never survive a Senate filibuster.

In his final statement, Luttig warned that Trump and his supporters are still out there plotting against democracy in the 2024 election. “If the former president or his anointed successor as the Republic Party presidential candidate were to lose that election,” Luttig said, “they would attempt to overturn the 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to return the 2020 election.”

While Luttig provided the legal grounding to overturn Eastman’s bogus arguments, Thursday’s other live witness, former Pence counsel Greg Jacob, provided the anecdotes. The garrulous Jacob recounted a conversation he had at the White House with Eastman, the day before the electoral votes were counted. “If the vice president did what you were asking him to do, we would lose nine-to-nothing in the Supreme Court,” Jacob told Eastman. Eastman’s initial counterargument? The Trump team would only lose seven-to-two. (While Eastman never named justices, it is a safe bet that one of the two possible dissenters would have been Clarence Thomas, whose wife Ginni the committee plans to question about her stop-the-steal plotting with Eastman and other Trump dead-enders). Finally, after further argument, Eastman conceded to Jacob that the verdict against Pence’s assertion of unilateral power would have been unanimous.

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Video testimony provided other repudiations of Eastman’s nutcase legal theory. Eric Hershmann, the deputy White House counsel under Trump, recalled telling Eastman, “Are you out of your effing mind? … You’re going to turn around and tell 78-plus million people in the country that your theory is this is how you’re going to invalidate their votes?”

The first three hearings of the January 6 committee have built a powerful case that Trump both orchestrated the violence at the Capitol and then deliberately did nothing to stop it. What gives the hearings so much heft is that the case is being made by prominent conservatives such as Luttig and former administration officials like Jacob. And instead of a “smoking gun” of Watergate fame, there is instead the frightening noose erected on the Capitol grounds intended for Pence.

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Gerrit Cole’s strong outing wasted in Yankees’ no-no loss

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Gerrit Cole’s strong outing wasted in Yankees’ no-no loss

This wasn’t what Gerrit Cole had in mind earlier in the week when he laughed at how being on the mound for a no-hitter has eluded him.

Cole spun a gem of a start Saturday, but wound up on the losing end because he shared the rubber with three Astros pitchers who combined on a no-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Yankees. In a reminder of how cruel baseball can be, Cole twice took no-hitters into the middle of the game or beyond this week and wound up with a no-decision and a loss on his record (6-2).

“The cold hard truth is we got outpitched and outplayed,” Cole said. “Credit to the opponent. Magical day for them.”

Cole lost a no-hitter in the eighth inning Monday against the Rays, but the Yankees still won, which created a light moment when he joked he has never completed the job despite building a résumé with four All-Star selections and an ERA title. There was no such luck or levity Saturday when he would needed perfection — or better — to outduel Astros starter Cristian Javier and two relievers.

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Instead, Cole settled for striking out eight and scattering four hits over seven innings.

Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole
Robert Sabo

“Gerrit’s just going to keep doing that,” catcher Jose Trevino said. “That’s good for us in the long run.”

Cole walked two, but did not allow a hit until back-to-back, two-out singles by Jake Meyers and Martin Maldonado in the fifth inning. He survived that jam unharmed, but his 101st pitch was his big mistake in the seventh inning of a scoreless game.

J.J. Matijevic turned on a low-inside fastball and deposited it into the right-field seats for a homer as his reward for showing patience laying off a first pitch in the dirt. The rookie first baseman’s only two career hits have been solo home runs.

“I tried to make an adjustment and I obviously overcorrected and threw the pitch into an area that he was anticipating or he wasn’t going to be late on,” Cole said. “Not the side of the plate that we were trying to go to. It was honestly just a bad miss, but I don’t want to take any credit away from the guy who put a good swing on it.”

The solace is that Cole is pitching like an ace. He has allowed one run or fewer in five of his last six starts. Matijevic’s home run snapped Cole’s 21-inning scoreless streak at home.

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“Right away he was getting swing-and miss-with his heater, which was big while he was finding it those first two innings,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought his stuff was really good. Once he settled in, he was terrific.”

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4 wounded, including 8-year-old, in Brooklyn scooter shooting

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4 wounded, including 8-year-old, in Brooklyn scooter shooting

Four people were wounded — including an 8-year-old boy — in a scooter shooting in Brooklyn on Saturday night, police said.

Two men riding on a scooter pulled up around 11:30 p.m. to a large gathering of people in front of the Stuyvesant Gardens Houses on Quincy Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant and opened fire into the crowd, cops said.

An 8-year-old boy received a graze wound in the leg. A 27-year-old male, a 35-year-old female and a 46-year-old female were also each shot in the legs.

All four victims were transported to Kings County Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

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The suspects fled on a green and white scooter in an unknown direction, according to police and sources.

Six shell casings and two live rounds were recovered at the scene, sources said.

The victims are all expected to survive.
The victims are all expected to survive.
Paul Martinka

No arrests have been made at this time as police continued to canvas the area early Sunday morning.

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Man arrested for attempted murder of LAPD officers amid Roe v. Wade protests

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Man arrested for attempted murder of LAPD officers amid Roe v. Wade protests

Police holding rubber-bullet guns and batons move to disperse a crowd of abortion rights activists protesting after the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, in Downtown Los Angeles, on June 24, 2022.
Police holding rubber-bullet guns and batons move to disperse a crowd of abortion rights activists protesting after the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, in Downtown Los Angeles, on June 24, 2022.
Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

A man was charged with attempted murder of Los Angeles police officers Friday night amid protests of the Roe v. Wade reversal, cops said.

A woman was also charged with resisting police after four officers were injured following a barrage of projectiles, fireworks and a makeshift blow torch, according to officials.

The mayhem unfolded around 8:20 p.m. in Downtown Los Angeles, the LAPD said.

Michael Ortiz, 30, is accused of throwing a makeshift flame thrower at an officer, who was treated for burns, according to a Saturday press release.

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Juliana Bernado, 23, allegedly attempted to steal an officer’s baton. A “less-lethal” bullet was fired at her, and she was taken into custody, police said.

“I condemn the violence against officers that occurred last night and into today,” Chief Michel Moore said.

“Individuals participating in such criminal activity are not exercising their 1st Amendment rights in protest of the Supreme Court decision, rather, they are acting as criminals.  

The Department will vigorously pursue prosecution of these individuals.”

Large scale protests in other cities large and small around the country were mostly peaceful.

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